Apple's iPhone found to infringe on Qualcomm modem patent in German court

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2018
Apple is facing another potential sales ban in Germany, as the German court in Munich has ruled that the company stands in violation of a Qualcomm patent.

Apple's iPhone X, with an Intel modem
Apple's iPhone X, with an Intel modem


Judge Matthias Zigann ruled on Thursday afternoon that Apple has violated Qualcomm patents on iPhones with Intel modems -- meaning all units sold in Germany. Apple supplier Qorvo violated an "envelope tracking" patent held by Qualcomm, vital to conservation of battery power while the modem is active. The ban is enforceable in Germany, though Apple could seek a stay through the appeals process -- which it is certain to do.

The intellectual property in question covers battery efficiency technology and originates from the same batch of six patents leveraged against Apple in Qualcomm's U.S. International Trade Commission complaint. Specifically, the chipmaker claimed infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,698,558 for a "Low-voltage power-efficient envelope tracker."

Apple began using Intel modems with the iPhone 7, with the chipmaker winning about 30 percent of all orders for the handset at the time. Apple presently relies on Intel modems across its entire product line.

"Competition authorities around the world have repeatedly found Qualcomm's licensing practices unlawful, yet Qualcomm continues to try to achieve the same results through a campaign of patent lawsuits," Intel's general counsel, Steven Rodgers, said in a statement. "These lawsuits have been largely unsuccessful, and at best would reduce innovation and raise prices."

Apple issued a statement following the ruling.
"Qualcomm's campaign is a desperate attempt to distract from the real issues between our companies. Their tactics, in the courts and in their everyday business, are harming innovation and harming consumers. Qualcomm insists on charging exorbitant fees based on work they didn't do and they are being investigated by governments all around the world for their behavior. We are of course disappointed by this verdict and we plan to appeal.

All iPhone models remain available to customers through carriers and resellers in 4,300 locations across Germany. During the appeal process, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models will not be available at Apple's 15 retail stores in Germany. iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR will remain available in all our stores."
The iPhone manufacturer is dealing with a similar legal matter in China, where a minor Chinese court issued a preliminary injunction against older iPhones for infringing on two software patents. In response to the sales ban, Apple announced plans to issue a software update it believed would address the "minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case." That update was pushed out to users with iOS 12.1.2.

Qualcomm does not believe that the patch is sufficient, however. The chipmaker's general counsel, Don Rosenberg, characterizes the software update and Apple's public comments following last week's decision as "deliberate attempts to obfuscate and misdirect."

"Despite Apple's efforts to downplay the significance of the order and its claims of various ways it will address the infringement, Apple apparently continues to flout the legal system by violating the injunctions," Rosenberg said.

In the United States, the USITC has recently declared that it would review retired Administrative law judge Thomas Pender's ruling that Apple infringed one Qualcomm patent, but shouldn't face a product ban that was being sought. The review is in its entirety for the one patent that Judge Pender viewed as violated, meaning that the validity of the one patent will be re-examined, as well as the refusal of a product ban.

In that re-examination, the USITC said that it will consider not just if the patent is infringed, but if there are any national security implications in a ruling, and how long it would take Apple to design around a ban or if it already has. The ban ruling isn't binary, and the agency can also consider a limited ban, such as on one version of an iPhone, and not another -- like a ban on iPhones with Intel modems versus Qualcomm ones.

The USITC complaint isn't the only one before the U.S. Government. A U.S. Federal Trade Commission lawsuit was filed before Apple's, and a decisive ruling was issued in November when District Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary ruling against Qualcomm, calling on it to license technology to rivals like Intel.

To put pressure on Qualcomm, Apple has been directing its manufacturers to withhold royalty payments -- including Qorvo -- potentially in excess of $7 billion.

Qualcomm's CEO has been saying for six months that the modem chip saga will conclude soon. It isn't clear how accurate that assessment is, with a source within Apple saying that there have been no meaningful conversations between the two companies in months.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,928member
    As in China this only technically applies to 2017 and prior iPhone models, (ex. 8, 8Plus, X) an in Germany those with Intel modems.

    ...and no that does not mean that it only applies to iOS11 and Apple already designed around it with v.12x. It's because the latest models weren't yet introduced when the lawsuit was initially filed. The wheels turn slow....
     As Mike points out further down the page there are several cases between Qualcomm and Apple going on in Germany, but this one granted an injunction relevant to particular hardware chip and its function re:Intel modems
     
    My initial post may be wrong as to why this only applies up thru the 2017 iPhoneX, so thanks Mike. We can wait for better details. 
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 2 of 41
    I’d generally say be the bigger man... but Apple use your billions and buy up all the patents and go full patent troll on Qualcomm’s ass.
    magman1979
  • Reply 3 of 41
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,790administrator
    gatorguy said:
    As in China this only technically applies to 2017 and prior iPhone models (ex. 8, 8Plus, X) with Intel modems.

    ...and no that does not mean that it only applies to iOS11 and Apple already designed around it with v.12x. It's because the latest models weren't yet introduced when the lawsuit was initially filed. The wheels turn slow....
    :)

    Different patents asserted in China and Germany. The German complaint is more like the US one involving hardware. The Chinese one is a different matter entirely involving software.
    edited December 2018 netmagemuthuk_vanalingammagman1979racerhomie3
  • Reply 4 of 41
    ksecksec Posts: 1,566member
    I don't like Qualcomm but they do have a case. Looks like the so call Door Step resolution from Qualcomm CEO meant going full on Attack to Apple and force them to settle. 

    Will be an interesting 2019.
  • Reply 5 of 41
    I’d generally say be the bigger man... but Apple use your billions and buy up all the patents and go full patent troll on Qualcomm’s ass.
    Apple is still not big or small enough to go it alone on their own tech. Why buy the cow when you can get milk at a reasonable rate when you need it and without maintaining the cow? This is not the first or last time Apple will step patient dung so let the courts do their thing, sometimes you win and sometime you got to pay up. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 41
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,989member
    Both sides will go full offensive to have leverage in settlement talk if ever happens. Currently, Qualcomm appears wining patent dispute but Apple have a way to address and continue selling iPhones in respective country. Moreover, Apple somehow feel comfortable to continue fighting in court because probably feels and expect better outcome.
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 7 of 41
    peteopeteo Posts: 367member
    ksec said:
    I don't like Qualcomm but they do have a case. Looks like the so call Door Step resolution from Qualcomm CEO meant going full on Attack to Apple and force them to settle. 

    Will be an interesting 2019.
    Yup going to be interesting. If this is the Intel modem, not much they can do but pay up. Also even if they decide to design there own modem chips they are probably still Qualcomm patents they will need to license. Not sure there is much apple can do. I think Qualcomm pretty much has cellular patents locked up. Only thing apple can really argue now is whether Qualcomm is charging too much for the LTE,4G,3G mimo standards.
    edited December 2018 netmage
  • Reply 8 of 41
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,928member
    wood1208 said:
    Both sides will go full offensive to have leverage in settlement talk if ever happens. Currently, Qualcomm appears wining patent dispute but Apple have a way to address and continue selling iPhones in respective country. Moreover, Apple somehow feel comfortable to continue fighting in court because probably feels and expect better outcome.
    Apple fought hard against Nokia patent licensing via multiple cross-lawsuits too. Same with Ericsson two years ago, several back and forth claims of unfair this and infringing that. Apple did settle with both of them, pay past royalties and agree to ongoing ones. Lawsuits can be just another way of negotiating a mutually acceptable business case. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 9 of 41
    gatorguy said:
    wood1208 said:
    Both sides will go full offensive to have leverage in settlement talk if ever happens. Currently, Qualcomm appears wining patent dispute but Apple have a way to address and continue selling iPhones in respective country. Moreover, Apple somehow feel comfortable to continue fighting in court because probably feels and expect better outcome.
    Apple fought hard against Nokia patent licensing via multiple cross-lawsuits too. Same with Ericsson two years ago, several back and forth claims of unfair this and infringing that. Apple did settle with both of them, pay past royalties and agree to ongoing ones. Lawsuits can be just another way of negotiating a mutually acceptable business case. 

    Uh, Nokia and Ericsson ALSO settled. Don’t make it sound one-sided as if Apple lost. If Nokia and Ericsson has rock solid cases they should have went to trial to get even more money.
    netmagejbdragonstompymagman1979racerhomie3
  • Reply 10 of 41
    peteo said:
    ksec said:
    I don't like Qualcomm but they do have a case. Looks like the so call Door Step resolution from Qualcomm CEO meant going full on Attack to Apple and force them to settle. 

    Will be an interesting 2019.
    Yup going to be interesting. If this is the Intel modem, not much they can do but pay up. Also even if they decide to design there own modem chips they are probably still Qualcomm patents they will need to license. Not sure there is much apple can do. I think Qualcomm pretty much has cellular patents locked up. Only thing apple can really argue now is whether Qualcomm is charging too much for the LTE,4G,3G mimo standards.

    What do you mean “not much they can do”? Apple can build modems if they want and Qualcomm will be required to license their patents. You can’t own patents that are part of a standard and then pick and choose who gets to use them.
    edited December 2018 magman1979
  • Reply 11 of 41
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,928member
    gatorguy said:
    wood1208 said:
    Both sides will go full offensive to have leverage in settlement talk if ever happens. Currently, Qualcomm appears wining patent dispute but Apple have a way to address and continue selling iPhones in respective country. Moreover, Apple somehow feel comfortable to continue fighting in court because probably feels and expect better outcome.
    Apple fought hard against Nokia patent licensing via multiple cross-lawsuits too. Same with Ericsson two years ago, several back and forth claims of unfair this and infringing that. Apple did settle with both of them, pay past royalties and agree to ongoing ones. Lawsuits can be just another way of negotiating a mutually acceptable business case. 

    Uh, Nokia and Ericsson ALSO settled. Don’t make it sound one-sided as if Apple lost. If Nokia and Ericsson has rock solid cases they should have went to trial to get even more money.
    Huh? Of course everyone may not have gotten what they wanted. Did you even attempt to understand the last sentence I wrote? Seems more like you propping up a paper-thin "gotcha" target just to argue. You missed....

    peteo said:
    ksec said:
    I don't like Qualcomm but they do have a case. Looks like the so call Door Step resolution from Qualcomm CEO meant going full on Attack to Apple and force them to settle. 

    Will be an interesting 2019.
    Yup going to be interesting. If this is the Intel modem, not much they can do but pay up. Also even if they decide to design there own modem chips they are probably still Qualcomm patents they will need to license. Not sure there is much apple can do. I think Qualcomm pretty much has cellular patents locked up. Only thing apple can really argue now is whether Qualcomm is charging too much for the LTE,4G,3G mimo standards.

    What do you mean “not much they can do”? Apple can build modems if they want and Qualcomm will be required to license their parents. You can’t own patents that are part of a standard and then pick and choose who gets to use them.
    The German ruling didn't involve standards-pledged patents AFAIK. It was a power-saving patent that Qualcomm can choose to license or not if I read it correctly. 
    As for SEP's in general, as you mentioned in your reply to me it's not a one-sided decision where Apple can play create-a-price and QC has to accept.

    In the case of a license to the SEP's only, the law would generally be on QC's side if they're expressly following the standards contract spelled out between ETSI and Qualcomm that established the F/RAND-ness wouldn't it? Questions might surround the bundling of non-essential IP and any instances of potential exhaustion included with the sale of hardware, but licensing royalties for the SEP package itself might well pass inspection without changes being mandated by some court if it came to that. 
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 12 of 41
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,996member
    What will Apple do if jobs is still alive? 
  • Reply 13 of 41
    peteo said:
    ksec said:
    I don't like Qualcomm but they do have a case. Looks like the so call Door Step resolution from Qualcomm CEO meant going full on Attack to Apple and force them to settle. 

    Will be an interesting 2019.
    Yup going to be interesting. If this is the Intel modem, not much they can do but pay up. Also even if they decide to design there own modem chips they are probably still Qualcomm patents they will need to license. Not sure there is much apple can do. I think Qualcomm pretty much has cellular patents locked up. Only thing apple can really argue now is whether Qualcomm is charging too much for the LTE,4G,3G mimo standards.

    What do you mean “not much they can do”? Apple can build modems if they want and Qualcomm will be required to license their parents. You can’t own patents that are part of a standard and then pick and choose who gets to use them.
    You forgot that the meat of the matter are Qualcomm’s licensing practices. They do license, but flouting F/RAND commitments to SEPs, double-dipping... etc.

    At it’s prime, CDMA was a technically better option than GSM. But outside the US (and less than a handful of other much smaller markets), CDMA was never a thing. That was due to Qualcomm feeling too big for their shoes, pushing everyone around.

    And that have not changed.
  • Reply 14 of 41
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,928member
    In the meantime while appealing the decision Apple will no longer sell iPhone 7 and 8 models in Germany. Probably not much market effect since those are older iPhones.. 

    EDIT: Apple reaction...
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/20/qualcomm-reportedly-wins-injunction-against-apple-in-munich.html

    edited December 2018
  • Reply 15 of 41
    tzeshan said:
    What will Apple do if jobs is still alive? 
    Hello?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 16 of 41
    gatorguy said:
    In the meantime while appealing the decision Apple will no longer sell iPhone 7 and 8 models in Germany. Probably not much market effect since those are older iPhones.. 

    EDIT: Apple reaction...
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/20/qualcomm-reportedly-wins-injunction-against-apple-in-munich.html

    The market effect will be further muted by the fact that non-Apple retailers can still sell the product, and that there's a large grey market for these things in the EU (e.g., you can buy it in the Netherlands or France or Poland).
    magman1979racerhomie3
  • Reply 17 of 41
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,934member

    tzeshan said:
    What will Apple do if jobs is still alive? 
    But he’s not so what difference does it make? Let it go already! It’s been 7yrs FFS!
    StrangeDaysmagman1979radarthekat
  • Reply 18 of 41
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,996member
    macxpress said:

    tzeshan said:
    What will Apple do if jobs is still alive? 
    But he’s not so what difference does it make? Let it go already! It’s been 7yrs FFS!
    I think if he is alive he will make new innovations instead of letting Apple being sued. 
  • Reply 19 of 41
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,359member
    gatorguy said:
    In the meantime while appealing the decision Apple will no longer sell iPhone 7 and 8 models in Germany. Probably not much market effect since those are older iPhones.. 

    EDIT: Apple reaction...
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/20/qualcomm-reportedly-wins-injunction-against-apple-in-munich.html

    The market effect will be further muted by the fact that non-Apple retailers can still sell the product, and that there's a large grey market for these things in the EU (e.g., you can buy it in the Netherlands or France or Poland).
    Space 'grey' I trust?  ;)
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 20 of 41
    I’d generally say be the bigger man... but Apple use your billions and buy up all the patents and go full patent troll on Qualcomm’s ass.
    Patents? At Qualcomm’s current market cap, Apple could buy the entire company several times over with cash on hand.
    edited December 2018
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