Qualcomm is asking the U.S. government to ban imports of iPhones from overseas and to halt all sales of the Apple flagships that are already in the country. It’s only the latest salvo in the continually escalating legal battle between the two companies.
The San Diego-based chipmaker is asking for select iPhone and iPad models that contain LTE modems made by a competitor — namely Intel — should be barred from the country. That currently accounts for about half of all iPhones, Fortune reported. However, the action, to be filed Friday with the International Trade Commission, could take up to 18 months to be acted on. Notably, that means this year’s iPhones (including the iPhone 8) would be spared from the import ban. Qualcomm has been considering such a move since May.
In a separate move on Thursday, Qualcomm also filed a new federal lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the Cupertino company is violating six of its patents concerning mobile tech — ranging from battery-saving systems to patents for data-speed boosting aggregators. Each was carefully selected to demonstrate that Qualcomm’s intellectual property doesn’t just focus on industry communications standards. As Fortune points out, it’s a narrower and much more focused lawsuit that some think has a higher chance of success in court.
The legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm has been ongoing since early this year, with each company scuffling back and forth with a series of suits and counter-suits. In January, the Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm for alleged anticompetitive and monopolistic business practices — referring to the chipmaker’s policies of refusing to sell modems unless customers sign patent agreements and pay the associated fees, as well as its refusal to grant patent licenses to competitors.
In the wake of the FTC suit, Apple filed its own $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm, claiming that the company’s “illegal” business models were harmful to “Apple and the entire industry.” Apple equates the royalties to a tax on its own innovation, stating that “we shouldn’t have to pay them for technological breakthroughs they have nothing to do with.” Qualcomm charges royalties based on a percentage of the total cost of a device, rather than a percentage of the patented technology used in a device. The chipmaker maintains that its royalty policies are fair, citing the fact that its intellectual property is foundational to modern 3G and 4G networks.
In April, Apple announced that it would stop paying royalties to Qualcomm altogether unless a court intervened. In response, Qualcomm filed a suit against several of Apple’s largest supply chain partners, including Foxconn and Wistron. In a separate yet related incident in June, a U.S. District Judge denied Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss the FTC lawsuit against it — meaning that the chipmaker must now contend with U.S. regulators at the same time that it scraps with Apple. It’s been a torturous fight thus far, and neither side is showing any sign of backing down.