Qualcomm is about to enter another round of its legal battle against Apple. With a new complaint, the company is set to file on Friday with the U.S. ITC. In the complaint, Qualcomm accuses Apple of infringing its patents that cover various technologies that can extend the battery life of a mobile device and seeks to ban sales of Apple’s devices in the U.S with a limited exclusion order for non-Qualcomm baseband Apple devices, and a Cease and Desist Order for all infringing devices.

Back in January, Apple filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm and accused the company of overcharging for its chips and withholding a payment of about $1 billion in promised rebates, which is what Apple wants to get from its partner. Several days before Apple sued Qualcomm, the U.S. ITC charged the latter company with multiple antitrust violations, one of which was preclusion of Apple from sourcing baseband modems from Qualcomm’s rivals. In April, Qualcomm countersued Apple and accused the company of numerous wrongdoings, including interfering Qualcomm’s business relationships with manufacturers of Apple iOS devices as well as of artificially limiting capabilities of Qualcomm’s modem in the iPhone 7. In the new lawsuit to be filed on Friday, Qualcomm is accusing Apple of infringing six of its patents not related to wireless networks and 'is seeking a Cease and Desist Order barring further sales of infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States'.

The patents in question (see table below for details) cover various techniques that can extend the battery life of mobile devices. The patents are not covered by any industry standard, are not essential parts of any devices, and all six patents were issued in the last four years, Qualcomm asserts. At least one of the patents covers an essential aspect of any modern mobile SoC (e.g., a GPU stream processor supporting mixed precision instruction execution) and it could be considered impossible to build one without infringing that particular patent.

Qualcomm claims that Apple’s iOS devices use the aforementioned Qualcomm’s patents all the time, yet the hardware maker does not pay any royalties. What is ironic about the lawsuit is that while it does not involve Qualcomm’s wireless patents, it seeks to stop sales of iPhones and iPads with modems that compete against those from Qualcomm, essentially forcing Apple to buy baseband processors only from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm's Patents Allegedly Infringed by Apple
U.S. Patent No.
(Year of Issue)
Name Abstract Description Qualcomm's Description
Programmable streaming processor with mixed precision instruction execution. Relates to a programmable streaming processor that is capable of executing mixed-precision (e.g., full-precision, half-precision) instructions using different execution units. Enables high performance and rich visual
graphics for games while increasing a mobile
device’s battery life.
Low-voltage power-efficient envelope tracker. Techniques for generating a power supply for an amplifier and/or other circuits. Extends battery life by building intelligence into
the system so the antenna is always using just
the right amount of battery power to transmit,
whether it be video, text, or voice.
Compact and robust level shifter layout design. The field of invention relates to a semiconductor device and methods of manufacturing a semiconductor device handling a plurality of voltage, specifically multi-voltage circuits for shifting the voltage level between voltage domains. Maximizes smartphone performance while
extending battery life by connecting high
voltage circuits and low voltage circuits with
efficient interfaces.
Direct scatter loading of executable software image from a primary processor to one or more secondary processor in a multi-processor system. In a multi-processor system, an executable software image including an image header and a segmented data image is scatter loaded from a first processor to a second processor. Enables “flashless boot” which allows your
smartphone to connect to the internet quickly
after being powered on, while extending battery
life and reducing memory size.
Power saving techniques in computing devices. As the name implies. Enables the applications on your smartphone to
get their data to and from the internet quickly
and efficiently by acting as a smart “traffic cop”
between the apps processor and the modem.
Power tracker for multiple transmit signals sent simultaneously. Techniques for generating a power tracking supply voltage for a circuit (e.g., a power amplifier). The circuit may process multiple transmit signals being sent simultaneously on multiple carriers at different frequencies. Enables a mobile device to send high-speed data
such as live video from your phone by combining
many lanes of traffic into a data super-highway
while prolonging battery life.

Qualcomm expects the ITC investigation to start in August and for the case go to trial in 2018. In addition to the complaint with the ITC, Qualcomm also filed a lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging of the same wrongdoings.

We have questions fired at Qualcomm and Intel and will update in due course when we get responses.

Official Qualcomm Press Release

SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Qualcomm Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM) today announced that it is filing a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that Apple has engaged in the unlawful importation and sale of iPhones that infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions in iPhones. Qualcomm is requesting that the ITC institute an investigation into Apple's infringing imports and ultimately issue a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) to bar importation of those iPhones and other products into the United States to stop Apple's unlawful and unfair use of Qualcomm's technology. The Company is seeking the LEO against iPhones that use cellular baseband processors other than those supplied by Qualcomm's affiliates. Additionally, Qualcomm is seeking a Cease and Desist Order barring further sales of infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States.

"Qualcomm's inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm. "The patents we are asserting represent six important technologies, out of a portfolio of thousands, and each is vital to iPhone functions.  Apple continues to use Qualcomm's technology while refusing to pay for it. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple's infringement of six of our patented technologies."

The six patents, U.S. Patent No. 8,633,936, U.S. Patent No. 8,698,558, U.S. Patent No. 8,487,658, U.S. Patent No. 8,838,949, U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490, and U.S. Patent No. 9,608,675 enable high performance in a smartphone while extending battery life.  Each of the patents does so in a different way for different popular smartphone features; https://www.qualcomm.com/iphone-infographic. While the technologies covered by the patents are central to the performance of the iPhone, the six asserted patents are not essential to practice any standards in a mobile device or subject to a commitment to offer to license such patents.

Qualcomm today also filed a complaint against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that Apple infringes the same six patents in the complaint filed in the ITC. The complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief.

Qualcomm expects that the ITC investigation will commence in August and that the case will be tried next year.

Related Reading

Source: Qualcomm

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  • melgross - Sunday, July 9, 2017 - link

    What are you talking about? Making up fantasy scenarios?
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, July 8, 2017 - link

    The EU is investigating them? Oh wow how surprising... a successful US company that operates in the EU is investigated/fined by the Euro "regulators". They're a bunch of mobsters... you operate on their turf, you have to let them get their beak wet.

    The domestic investigations are more interesting, but they won't kill QC. Just reign them in a bit. QC designs some top-notch SoCs, and that's the biggest single reason they're successful.
  • SydneyBlue120d - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Let's hope there will be the Intel® XMM 7560 and not the 7480 in the next iPhone, however I really doubt it we'll be ready for this iPhone generation.
  • lefty2 - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    The "mixed precision" patent looks like a case of prior art to me. There were mobile GPUs using a mix of half precision and full precision long before 2014.
  • Sarah Terra - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Interesting thought. Pretty sure I saw the iPad being used in Star Trek TNG back in the 90's and oh let's see rounded rectangles came out in the roman era?

    Bottom line is that LEGALLY it is not whether there is prior art, it is who has control of the Patent in question at the current time and unfortunately for Apple, these are clear violations.

    But in reality it is just a taste of thier own medicine
  • lefty2 - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Your point is nonsense. You can't justify a invalid patent, by saying that the other company also has invalid patents. The whole lot should be thrown out if they have prior art.
  • melgross - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    That is so ridiculous! Apple never patented a rectangle with rounded corners. They never could have. That came from Samsung’s German lawyers, in their opening statement in court.

    It was interesting that in that lawsuit, when the judge held up an Apple 9.7” 3/2 iPad, and a 7” 16/9 Samsung tablet from just ten feet away, Samsung’s lawyers couldn’t tell which was which. Samsung lost the lawsuit.

    You are obviously very ignorant about patents, unless you post is being sarcastic. It very much does matter what the prior state of the art is. If there is prior art, then the patents in question will be ruled as invalid. Even worse, it’s allowed to sue to force the company to disgorge all profits gained from the invalidated patents.

    Qualcomm has better hope that every company overcharged by them doesn’t sue for this, or they will be out of business.
  • id4andrei - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Apple lost all over the world with their "design" patents. They were humiliated in the UK. Their only victory was in their back yard, with a jury of Apple lovin' citizens. Such is Apple's mindshare in the US.
  • name99 - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    I was unaware that China was Apple's "back yard" and full of "Apple lovin' citizens".
    This is why I read AnandTech comments --- to learn such interesting facts from such informed commenters...

    Meanwhile, in the real world, as just one example:

    The above (note) consisted of another company suing Apple...
    I am unaware of this worldwide flood of Apple-related design patent lawsuits that you claim. For example I can find zero reference to this supposed humiliation in the UK. The closest I can find is a lawsuit against QC filed March 2 2017 in response to QC's initial attack.
    There was an earlier Apple vs Nokia case in the UK which
    - had nothing to do with DESIGN patents
    - was initiated by Nokia
    - was settled out of course.
  • id4andrei - Saturday, July 8, 2017 - link

    I was talking strictly about Apple vs Samsung. Remember when they lost in the UK and had to write on their website that Samsung did not rip them off. Are you kiddin' me? All other avenues against Samsung either dismissed or just fell through as draws. Literally the most significant win Apple had was in their back yard. Cut the bull and stop being an absolute apologist.

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