Qualcomm Again Seeks a U.S. iPhone Sales Ban

Qualcomm is at it again: It is again asking regulators to halt the sale of some iPhones in the United States.

Qualcomm previously asked the International Trade Commission to ban the sale of certain iPhones in the United States because the devices use Intel modems that infringe on its patents. That effort failed, but with successful bans in both China and Germany behind it, Qualcomm is trying again.

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Apple recently told an ITC judge that it had found a software-based workaround for Qualcomm’s patent-protection technologies, and it asked for—and received—a six-month reprieve during which it could make the necessary changes. So, Qualcomm is using Apple’s previous arguments against it, noting that Apple had claimed there was no way to workaround the Qualcomm technologies, only to magically find a fix when the ITC had ruled against Apple.

“[The judge] recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the [Qualcomm] patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible,” the Qualcomm filing reads. “Apple now admits—more than seven months after the hearing—that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”

Basically, Qualcomm is asking that the previous decision giving Apple six months to deploy a fix be rescinded, resulting in an immediate ban on sales of Apple iPhone models based on infringing Intel modem hardware. That includes all modern iPhones, like the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

If Apple has found a software-based workaround, the ban—if enacted—could be short-lived, assuming it can prove that it is no longer infringing on Qualcomm’s patents. But the ITC had also previously indicated that it was wary of essentially handing the firm a “monopoly” on smartphone sales in the U.S., whatever that means. And that preserving competition, in this case in smartphone modems, was in the public interest.

Given that logic, I guess it’s OK to break the law in the name of competition now. That thinking would, of course, also absolve Chinese-based smartphone giants like Huawei and Xiaomi, which routinely copy products made by Apple, Samsung, and other companies.

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Conversation 9 comments

  • dontbe evil

    20 February, 2019 - 9:09 am

    <p>I like the way qualcomm fight against apple with apple own style</p>

    • blackcomb

      21 February, 2019 - 10:21 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#406051">In reply to dontbe_evil:</a></em></blockquote><p>Apple is all about having their cake and eating it too. Qualcomm is not having it.</p>

  • Thomas Parkison

    20 February, 2019 - 9:25 am

    <p>So where's Intel in this fight? Wouldn't they want to enter into this fight for their right to make modems on what should be a communications standard? The fact that one company, Qualcomm, has this much power should worry you.</p>

    • locust infested orchard inc

      20 February, 2019 - 9:45 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#406054">In reply to trparky:</a></em></blockquote><p>Intel are readying themselves with the launch of Cannon Lake, Ice Lake, Lakefield, Snow Ridge, Cascade Lake, and Foveros (hybrid x86 packaging that <em>may</em> power Andromeda). Too busy to get entangled in this dispute.</p><p><br></p><p>Google is <em>THE</em> real problem. It has the power to change people's perception, skewing them in an altogether wrong direction.</p>

    • provision l-3

      20 February, 2019 - 11:36 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#406054">In reply to trparky:</a></em></blockquote><p>In part it has to do with how Qualcomm does licensing. They don't license to the maker of the modem they have the company using the modem pay the licensing fee. So that makes the Apple the responsible party and not Intel. Intel has been involved in some of the lawsuits as a witness (they testified in the FTC vs. Qualcomm and I believe this one as well) but are not a party to it. </p>

  • locust infested orchard inc

    20 February, 2019 - 9:43 am

    <p>Should the prudence of the Judge come into force by the decree that all Intel modem embedded iPharces (essentially the 2018 iNotches, i.e., iNotches v1 [as iNotches v2 are scheduled for Fall 2019]) are to have their sales halted, in a mere strike of the gavel, the Judge will have resolved all the current ills of the US administration and the US as the whole.</p><p><br></p><p>Even the Mexico-US wall will somehow no longer be a point of contention – eradicating the iPharces from sale will have an immense impact, bringing renewed vigour and inspiration to all US citizens, including the Commander-in-Chief himself.</p><p><br></p><p>:-D 😛 ;-)</p><p><br></p><p>Here come the down votes from the iSheeple, not recognizing that only in an ideal World can the above prospect occur.</p>

  • Daekar

    20 February, 2019 - 9:43 am

    <p>You know, the regulators in this world just blow my mind sometimes. I'm against monopolies and believe competition is best, but demolishing property rights laws is not the solution.</p>

  • anthonye1778

    20 February, 2019 - 9:56 am

    <p>This is insane. Qualcomm is now the patent police, and they are even upstaging Intel on that front now. If Apple legitimately did infringe on QC's patents, then yes something needs to be done; law and order must be upheld and enforced. But something needs to be done about Qualcomm also…</p>

  • provision l-3

    20 February, 2019 - 11:57 am

    <p>This one is just weird. Qualcomm brought six complaints to the ITC for Apple infringing its patents. They then dropped three of those complaints prior to the ITC hearing the case. The ITC then ruled that two of the remaining three were not infringed so they are now down to single patent being infringed. During their own testimony they said that it would be easy for Apple to come up with a workaround, Apple came up with a workaround, Qualcomm approved the workaround and now Qualcomm want's to walk that back and get an import ban in place because their patent is no longer being infringed or because it will take six months to ensure the fix is completely rolled out? </p><p><br></p><p>From a business standpoint it is hard to fathom why Qualcomm keeps spending money on this. They got a win in China that was largely symbolic. Apple updated iOS and iPhones are still for sale. In Germany almost all the infringement cases were tossed but they did get a temporary injunction that cost them 1.3 billion Euros to enforce and their modems were added back into some of phones sold in Germany. So, what has Qualcomm gotten for their efforts? No sales bans and no damages payment. They did get some headlines and are selling a few more modems in Germany …. The ROI on these lawsuits has to be terrible. </p>

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