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Apple and Qualcomm Wrangle Over Possible Ban on Some iPhone Imports

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As per Reuters, the U.S. International Trade Commission staff claimed on Friday that a trade judge found Apple Inc infringed one of Qualcomm Inc’s (QCOM.O) patents for sure and that this act by Apple could very well be responsible for putting a stopper to that import of at least some iPhones.

Following this, Qualcomm issued a complaint against the California based multinational technology company about a year ago on the ground of infringement, demanding a ban from the commission, on the import of iPhones containing the touted high-tech chips ( that enable mobile phones to access wireless data networks)by Qualcomm’s rival Intel Corp’s (INTC.O). Acting as the third party arbitrator in this case, as in other similar cases, the ITC staff remarked that Apple had violated one of Qualcomm’s patents related to battery-saving technology. This statement was given by the ITC staff in a trial in Washington that began on Friday. Although the opinion of the staff lawyers is not the final word, but judges often consider them.

Backtracking to the former filings in the ITC case, Apple put up its defensive front, feeling that it had got a ‘chip on its shoulder’. Apple argued defiantly that Qualcomm’s patents are null and void and notwithstanding this fact, the judge should nevertheless not accede to putting a ban on Intel-based iPhones as it would place Qualcomm in a position of monopoly on modems in the US, thereby being detrimental on Intel’s share in the modem business.

Qualcomm is selectively asserting its patents to target only Apple products containing Intel chipsets — even though its patent infringement allegations would apply equally to Apple products containing Qualcomm chipsets — in an attempt to use the ITC as another mechanism for perpetuating its ill-gotten monopoly position. – Apple

Interestingly, the ITC case is the first to hit the trial, following a dozen or so legal fights over patents, licensing practices and contracts between Apple and Qualcomm. The decision of the trial is expected to be reached by January.

The implications of the decision to ban some iPhone imports by the ITC is that Qualcomm could use the ban to try to compel or convince Apple to drop or settle many of the remaining patent and contract cases, which stand unresolved as of now, as per the legal experts.

According to Apple, some of Qualcomm’s practices are illegal, and Apple affirms this by stating that Qualcomm has paid billions of dollars in fines in the recent past from antitrust regulators in many countries, even though it is still appealing some of these decisions against them.

Countering Apple’s claims, Qualcomm states that its practices are legal and have been accepted by customers for many years now, with the gradual boom of the smartphone industry, which stands as the proof of the legality of its practices, as the practices have stood the test of time. But, Qualcomm has brought out some changes in its licensing model of allowing a cut in the selling price of a device so as to ease tensions with both parties of customers and regulators.

As for us, it’s to wait for what decision is passed by ITC finally to settle the dispute.


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