Apple vs Qualcomm: The saga continues..
Qualcomm has told a San Diego jury that it wants Apple to pay US$31 million in damages for patent infringement violations, in what is the latest development in a case that threatens to outlast the Trump administration.
These kind of legal battles don’t normally catch the attention of the masses but the fallout between the two powerhouses has been a spectacle for observers. From Apple instructing Asian contract manufacturers that build iPhones to stop paying royalties to Qualcomm, to Qualcomm seeking to ban iPhone imports in the U.S., Germany and China, things just seem to get uglier with each passing day.
How it all started
The dispute started back in January 2017, when Apple sued Qualcomm for US$1 billion. Apple contends that Qualcomm charges royalties for “technologies they have nothing to do with” and accused the chip maker of withholding rebates as punishment for Apple’s cooperation with Korean regulators looking into antitrust allegations against Qualcomm.
Qualcomm then countersued Apple, and the dispute has spread to other courts and countries, culminating in another lawsuit last fall in which Qualcomm accused Apple of handing over information and trade secrets to Intel to boost the performance of the latter’s chips. Qualcomm actually managed small wins in two of their lawsuits, which led to short lived import bans in Germany and China, both of which Apple was able to skirt with hardware and software updates.
What started with one suit has now morphed into what can best be described as a courtroom world tour with more than 50 different legal proceedings in 16 different jurisdictions in six countries. Talk about messy. With the two companies unable to reach a settlement, the next big date to look out for is April 15, when both Apple and Qualcomm are due to appear in the federal court.
What does this mean for us, the consumers?
As for now, we won’t be able to feel the direct impact of the feud. That may not always be the case, however, especially with big court cases coming up this year.
“Obviously, when there are sales injunctions, these fights impact consumers in those jurisdictions, but mostly the impact to consumers is indirect. There are embedded costs that get passed along – no fight with lawyers and fees comes free – and you could make the argument that innovation is harmed when companies are focused on fighting about IP rather than licensing it broadly and inventing new things.”
Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at GlobalData.
For now, I suppose it all makes for good viewing. At the very worst, Apple may have to tone down on new releases. They just can’t afford to ditch Qualcomm just yet as Intel is still relatively new to the smartphone modem scene. So if Qualcomm is forced out of the iPhone supply chain, that could mean iPhones will temporarily lose out. However, just as Apple managed to weasel its way out of import bans in Germany and China, I fully expect it to be a game of cat and mouse with both companies taking turns to be either.