Apple/Qualcomm patent dispute settled, but legal battle isn’t quite over

The lengthy and aggressive Apple/Qualcomm patent dispute was eventually settled back in 2019, but the legal battle isn’t quite over yet.

That’s because there was an ongoing Qualcomm appeal relating to one of the patents challenged by Apple, and that case has quietly rumbled on in the background …


Apple bought modem chips from Qualcomm for its iPhones. These modems contained patented technology, and the chipmaker charged Apple both for the chips themselves and a separate license fee for use of the patented tech. The iPhone maker objected to this as “double-dipping.”

There had seemed no prospect of a settlement as each company became increasingly aggressive in its stance.

Qualcomm had accused Apple of blackmail. The CEOs of the two companies had ‘hostile’ meetings. Qualcomm refused to sell chips to Apple for the iPhone XS and XR. Both companies set aside earlier talk of settlement and pledged to fight it all the way.

A multibillion-dollar trial began – then unexpectedly ended on day one when the two companies reached an out-of-court settlement.

No explanation was offered – but the settlement was almost certainly at the request of Apple after it was effectively left with no choice but to repair its relationship with Qualcomm when Intel exited the 5G smartphone modem business.

Apple/Qualcomm patent dispute lives on

However, Qualcomm was still unhappy that one of its patents was declared invalid, and continued to pursue that aspect. Reuters reports that the chipmaker has succeeded in getting the matter reopened.

Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc got another chance Tuesday to show that one of its smartphone-chip patents challenged by Apple is valid, setting up another round of arguments before a key U.S. patent tribunal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the Patent Trial and Appeal Board may have wrongly relied on part of Qualcomm’s own patent to find that it was invalid […] The court sent the case back to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Photo: Matthew Henry/Unsplash

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