Apple has mixed outing in US ITC hearings over Qualcomm's patents

Hours after a US ITC judge recommended a limited import ban on the iPhone over a Qualcomm patent, the agency said a battery-saving patent is invalid.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Apple had a mixed day vs Qualcomm in two US International Trade Commission hearings Tuesday. But Apple appears to have avoided an import ban of its iPhone after the US International Trade Commission rejected a Qualcomm patent infringement claim filed by Qualcomm.

The US ITC said that a Qualcomm battery-saving feature is invalid. In a notice, the US ITC explained its ruling.

Just hours earlier another US ITC judge said Apple infringed on another patent.

Earlier Tuesday, a judge with the US International Trade Commission on Tuesday determined that Apple has indeed infringed on a Qualcomm patent in some of its iPhone models. Judge MaryJoan McNamara said one of the three patents under review was violated by Apple, and that iPhones containing the components in question should be banned from sale in the US. The decision is subject to review by the full ITC commission.

"A complete recommendation on remedy and bond will be forthcoming together with findings of fact and an analysis of the effects of the public interest factors on the issue of remedy," McNamara wrote. "However, it should be noted that I will be recommending that a limited exclusion order together with a cease and desist order, both with certification provisions, issue against Apple."

The violating patent deals with power management in computing devices, and is one of more than a dozen patents that Qualcomm says have been infringed upon by Apple. The two companies have been locked in a patent legal battle going back to January 2017, when Apple filed a suit against Qualcomm accusing the semiconductor giant of overcharging for chips and withholding nearly $1 billion in contractual rebate payments. Apple's suit also claimed that Qualcomm created an "abusive licensing model" that enabled the company to demand excessive royalties.

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Qualcomm then filed a complaint with the ITC asking it to bar the import of some iPhones and other products into the US. That complaint was tied to Apple's decision to withhold royalty payments to contract manufacturers until the legal dispute with Qualcomm was resolved -- which led to another counter suit filed by Apple's suppliers. In that suite, Qualcomm was accused of violating two sections of the Sherman Act, a landmark US antitrust law.

Qualcomm eventually convinced the ITC to open a probe into whether the importation of the iPhone 7, along with various device components like baseband processor modems, violates the Tariff Act of 1930.

In December, a German court ruled in Qualcomm's favor, finding that Apple infringed upon Qualcomm's power savings technology in the firm's iPhone lineup. Apple was ordered to stop selling all infringing iPhones in the country, including the import and any third-party resales.


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