In brief: Chip-maker Qualcomm has alleged that Apple has violated three Qualcomm patents and is seeking $31 million in damages, roughly $1.40 per patent-infringing iPhone sold.
Apple and Qualcomm are back in court in the latest of a series of battles over patent infringement. Before Apple switched to Intel as their modem supplier, Qualcomm chips were used in many earlier generation iPhones.
Qualcomm alleges that after the two parted ways, Apple provided Intel with Qualcomm’s proprietary source code to enable Intel’s modems to ‘catch up’ with the capabilities of Qualcomm’s chips. But the allegations don’t end there. The infringement accusations pertain to three patents: one allows rapid network connection when turning a phone on, another aids in graphics processing and battery conservation, and a final one improves data downloads by efficiently redirecting traffic between the modem and an app’s processor.
Collectively, Qualcomm estimates the value of the three patents at $1.40 per iPhone. According to Patrick Kennedy, an economist and expert witness called on by Qualcomm in this latest trial, that $1.40 figure equates to $31 million in damages given how many allegedly infringing iPhones have been sold.
Given the size and value of Apple, $31 million doesn’t seem like a particularly large amount of money. Apple famously became a $1 trillion company for a time in 2018, so paying the damages wouldn’t hurt Apple. But what might hurt more is any admission of guilt that might be used to limit further sales of iPhones.
We reported last year that through similar lawsuits, Qualcomm managed to secure sales bans in China and Germany for some iPhone models, based on other patent infringements. Apple no doubt wants to avoid any similar outcomes reoccurring.