Despite the litany of full-throated legal battles that rage on between them, Qualcomm’s CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, recently told Fortune that he believes an out-of-court settlement between his firm and Apple is certainly not out of the question. Mollenkopf expressed these sentiments to reporters yesterday on the sidelines of Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado, which is scheduled to run through July 19.
“There’s not really anything new going on,” Mollenkopf said about the ongoing dispute with Apple, while going on to explain that “Those things tend to get resolved out of court and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t expect that to be the case here.”
When pressed by reporters for further details about a potential settlement, Mollenkopf took on somewhat of a defensive tone, saying “I don’t have an announcement or anything so please don’t ask.”
Yesterday’s comments are Mollenkopf’s latest in a string of public statements about the ongoing legal fiasco, and at least on the surface, suggest that the San Diego, California-based chip-maker remains open to settlement talks with Cupertino. Whether such talks will actually take place at some point in the future, however, remains to be seen — but if they do not, we can expect the battle to continue raging on, not unrealistically, for several years to come.
Anti-competitive Licensing Practices
The courtroom melodrama kicked off earlier this January, when Apple, with backing by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, filed a $1 billion injunction against the Snapdragon-maker, alleging that the company had engaged in anti-competitive patent licensing practices, and specifically accusing the chip-maker of both “charging unfair royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with” while refusing to pay quarterly royalty rebates.
At the heart of its preliminary lawsuit, according to Apple, was the fact that Qualcomm had been overcharging the iPhone-maker by billions of dollars — specifically by “double-dipping” with its unfair patent licensing agreement. Qualcomm, meanwhile, claimed at the time that its innovations are “at the heart of every iPhone,” and that the royalties are indeed fair.
Apple then followed up with a string of subsequent lawsuits against the chip-maker, filing complaints in various jurisdictions around the world including in Beijing, China, and the United Kingdom, where it accused Qualcomm of engaging in “monopolistic practices.”
Qualcomm then followed up with its own complaints in April, when it publicly accused the iPhone-maker of breaching the terms of its contract and making false statements — at which point Apple decided to stop paying Qualcomm royalties entirely until a court could intervene, and Qualcomm decided to file suits against Apple’s supply chain partners alleging collusion.
The cat and mouse game went even further when Qualcomm filed an injunction asking the court to block imports and ban the sale of all iPhone and iPad models equipped with the company’s modem chips.
While Mollenkopf clings to optimism that Apple will eventually cave and agree to settle all of these lawsuits out of court, it’s worth noting that Cupertino isn’t best known for going down without a fight.