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Qualcomm Lashes Back at Apple in Escalating Fight

Qualcomm fired back at Apple on Thursday in a fierce legal battle over patents, asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban the import of certain new models of iPhones.

The San Diego company claims Apple is infringing on six patents issued between 2013 and 2017 that improve performance and battery life in smartphones. It filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego and is seeking a limited ban from the International Trade Commission on iPhones made by contract manufacturers in Asia.

Apple has been “infringing these patents knowingly, willingly for quite some time now in their new phones,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s General Counsel. “We decided, frankly sparked by all their litigation efforts against us, that we weren’t going to just defend ourselves, which we will do very vigorously, but we were going to have to go on the attack.”

As a practical matter, Qualcomm is seeking a limited ban on iPhone 7s that contain cellular modem chips made by Intel and run on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks.

Qualcomm supplies Apple with cellular modems for iPhone 7s on Verizon and Sprint, as well as older iPhones on all U.S. networks. It is not seeking to ban imports of iPhones that use its own chips.

If the ITC rules in Qualcomm’s favor, an import ban could block some upcoming iPhone 8 models, which are expected to launch this fall.

It is unknown how Apple splits its modem supply between Qualcomm and Intel for the iPhone 8. But given the legal battle between the two tech giants, analysts believe Intel may have won the larger share.

In January, Apple filed a lawsuit attacking the core of Qualcomm’s patent licensing business model — claiming it is collecting patent royalties on technology that it has nothing to do with inventing. Anti-trust regulators in the U.S. and South Korea…


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