Qualcomm is about to enter another round of its legal battle against Apple. With a new complaint, the company is set to file on Friday with the U.S. ITC. In the complaint, Qualcomm accuses Apple of infringing its patents that cover various technologies that can extend the battery life of a mobile device and seeks to ban sales of Apple’s devices in the U.S with a limited exclusion order for non-Qualcomm baseband Apple devices, and a Cease and Desist Order for all infringing devices.

Back in January, Apple filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm and accused the company of overcharging for its chips and withholding a payment of about $1 billion in promised rebates, which is what Apple wants to get from its partner. Several days before Apple sued Qualcomm, the U.S. ITC charged the latter company with multiple antitrust violations, one of which was preclusion of Apple from sourcing baseband modems from Qualcomm’s rivals. In April, Qualcomm countersued Apple and accused the company of numerous wrongdoings, including interfering Qualcomm’s business relationships with manufacturers of Apple iOS devices as well as of artificially limiting capabilities of Qualcomm’s modem in the iPhone 7. In the new lawsuit to be filed on Friday, Qualcomm is accusing Apple of infringing six of its patents not related to wireless networks and 'is seeking a Cease and Desist Order barring further sales of infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States'.

The patents in question (see table below for details) cover various techniques that can extend the battery life of mobile devices. The patents are not covered by any industry standard, are not essential parts of any devices, and all six patents were issued in the last four years, Qualcomm asserts. At least one of the patents covers an essential aspect of any modern mobile SoC (e.g., a GPU stream processor supporting mixed precision instruction execution) and it could be considered impossible to build one without infringing that particular patent.

Qualcomm claims that Apple’s iOS devices use the aforementioned Qualcomm’s patents all the time, yet the hardware maker does not pay any royalties. What is ironic about the lawsuit is that while it does not involve Qualcomm’s wireless patents, it seeks to stop sales of iPhones and iPads with modems that compete against those from Qualcomm, essentially forcing Apple to buy baseband processors only from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm's Patents Allegedly Infringed by Apple
U.S. Patent No.
(Year of Issue)
Name Abstract Description Qualcomm's Description
Programmable streaming processor with mixed precision instruction execution. Relates to a programmable streaming processor that is capable of executing mixed-precision (e.g., full-precision, half-precision) instructions using different execution units. Enables high performance and rich visual
graphics for games while increasing a mobile
device’s battery life.
Low-voltage power-efficient envelope tracker. Techniques for generating a power supply for an amplifier and/or other circuits. Extends battery life by building intelligence into
the system so the antenna is always using just
the right amount of battery power to transmit,
whether it be video, text, or voice.
Compact and robust level shifter layout design. The field of invention relates to a semiconductor device and methods of manufacturing a semiconductor device handling a plurality of voltage, specifically multi-voltage circuits for shifting the voltage level between voltage domains. Maximizes smartphone performance while
extending battery life by connecting high
voltage circuits and low voltage circuits with
efficient interfaces.
Direct scatter loading of executable software image from a primary processor to one or more secondary processor in a multi-processor system. In a multi-processor system, an executable software image including an image header and a segmented data image is scatter loaded from a first processor to a second processor. Enables “flashless boot” which allows your
smartphone to connect to the internet quickly
after being powered on, while extending battery
life and reducing memory size.
Power saving techniques in computing devices. As the name implies. Enables the applications on your smartphone to
get their data to and from the internet quickly
and efficiently by acting as a smart “traffic cop”
between the apps processor and the modem.
Power tracker for multiple transmit signals sent simultaneously. Techniques for generating a power tracking supply voltage for a circuit (e.g., a power amplifier). The circuit may process multiple transmit signals being sent simultaneously on multiple carriers at different frequencies. Enables a mobile device to send high-speed data
such as live video from your phone by combining
many lanes of traffic into a data super-highway
while prolonging battery life.

Qualcomm expects the ITC investigation to start in August and for the case go to trial in 2018. In addition to the complaint with the ITC, Qualcomm also filed a lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging of the same wrongdoings.

We have questions fired at Qualcomm and Intel and will update in due course when we get responses.

Official Qualcomm Press Release

SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Qualcomm Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM) today announced that it is filing a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that Apple has engaged in the unlawful importation and sale of iPhones that infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions in iPhones. Qualcomm is requesting that the ITC institute an investigation into Apple's infringing imports and ultimately issue a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) to bar importation of those iPhones and other products into the United States to stop Apple's unlawful and unfair use of Qualcomm's technology. The Company is seeking the LEO against iPhones that use cellular baseband processors other than those supplied by Qualcomm's affiliates. Additionally, Qualcomm is seeking a Cease and Desist Order barring further sales of infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States.

"Qualcomm's inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm. "The patents we are asserting represent six important technologies, out of a portfolio of thousands, and each is vital to iPhone functions.  Apple continues to use Qualcomm's technology while refusing to pay for it. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple's infringement of six of our patented technologies."

The six patents, U.S. Patent No. 8,633,936, U.S. Patent No. 8,698,558, U.S. Patent No. 8,487,658, U.S. Patent No. 8,838,949, U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490, and U.S. Patent No. 9,608,675 enable high performance in a smartphone while extending battery life.  Each of the patents does so in a different way for different popular smartphone features; https://www.qualcomm.com/iphone-infographic. While the technologies covered by the patents are central to the performance of the iPhone, the six asserted patents are not essential to practice any standards in a mobile device or subject to a commitment to offer to license such patents.

Qualcomm today also filed a complaint against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that Apple infringes the same six patents in the complaint filed in the ITC. The complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief.

Qualcomm expects that the ITC investigation will commence in August and that the case will be tried next year.

Related Reading

Source: Qualcomm

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  • shabby - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Good news for intel i guess, let the new patent wars begin!
  • Samus - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Ohh noes, Apple limited your LTE modems performance in the iPhone 7? The humanity!

    WTF is up with Qualcomm. These patents are frivolous on their own merits. But then again, so are most of Apples.
  • R0H1T - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    You forgot Apple stopped paying QC any royalties while their lawsuit is being played out, now I assume this is to counter Apple's ****headedness whilst making sure that they get what's rightfully owed to them, & then some!

    Apple's been a master at patent trolling, but lately they've taken this passive aggressive approach to kick their opponents, when their down, or even potential takeover targets like Imagination tech. They've manipulated the legal system of US to inflict maximum damage on competitors, like Samsung, that their frivolous patents aren't tossed out with a hefty fine imposed on them tells a very sad state of affairs, so far as US PTO is concerned.
  • xype - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    How the fuck has Apple been kicking Imationation Tech?

    I find it fascinating how people seems to take any patent ligitation that happens as "proof" that their favourite non-likable company are shitheads, when in fact the whole industry plays the game — and, thanks to the US legal system, _has_ to play the game.

    And please tell me how you would react if someone wouldn’t pay you $1 billion. Because I’m pretty sure pretty much everyone would be happy to go to court over that.
  • melgross - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    That’s a dumb post.
  • name99 - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Hmm. Before you give us all your theories about Imagination vs Apple (and how that informs QC vs Apple) you might want to be SURE that you know what the facts are...

  • xype - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Sadly, the whole US patent system is awfully inadequate for today’s world, and the whole legal system encourages such lawsuit-happy behaviour. The fact that even patents that _would_ have merit are automatically seen as "frivolous" by most people should be telling enough.

    Having said that, it will be interesting to see who the courts end up agreeing with. Qualcomm does look like they’re getting overly greedy and if they are actively breaking FRAND licensing agreements this could bite them in the ass big time.
  • Morawka - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    yeah i wouldn't be surprised if Qualcomm got a few of those patents invalidated over this.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, July 8, 2017 - link

    Some of them look decently strong. If any of them stick it gives them leverage against Apple's litigation.
  • ciparis - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Obviously, the best way to respond when a competitor is kicking your ass in the ARM CPU design race is to try to get their product pulled from the market. #winning

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