Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) began slugging it out in courtrooms around the world early this year when Apple filed suit against the chipmaker seeking a rebate of nearly $1 billion in patent royalty payments. The relationship has gone downhill ever since.
The latest skirmish came Wednesday morning when Apple filed a countersuit to a claim filed by Qualcomm in July alleging that Apple had infringed Qualcomm patents that help extend mobile phone battery life. Apple made the obvious reply, denying the allegations and alleging that Qualcomm’s patents were invalid anyway.
In its countersuit, Apple alleges that Qualcomm has infringed “at least” eight Apple patents related to battery life for mobile devices.
According to a Reuters report, Apple’s filing states that “Apple began seeking those patents years before Qualcomm began seeking the patents it asserts against Apple in this case.” Apple is seeking unspecified damages.
Apple claims in its suit that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 and 820 processors — used in Samsung and Google phones — infringe Apple’s patents. Apple does not use those processors but has used Qualcomm modem chips that connect its iPhones and iPads to the internet.
The obvious solution to the spat over battery life patents is for Apple and Qualcomm to cross-license each other’s patents, but with emotions still running high no such outcome is likely soon.
Bloomberg reported today that the European Union — one of the several fronts in the war between Apple and Qualcomm — is considering a set of guidelines that would govern how companies should determine fees and how they could avoid protracted battles over the value of patents. However worthwhile, we wouldn’t count on success.
While the royalty fight works its way through the courts, Apple is not making payments to Qualcomm, and Apple has told its suppliers — particularly Foxconn — to withhold payment to Qualcomm as well. Apple has also begun using modem chips manufactured by Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), a move that led Qualcomm to file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to ban importing iPhones using the Intel chips due to the alleged patent infringements.