Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Qualcomm/Apple battle escalates in China

The war between Qualcomm and Apple keeps heating up, as the New York Times reports:

A two-year legal battle between Apple and its chip supplier, Qualcomm, reached a new level of contention on Monday when Qualcomm said a Chinese court had ordered Apple to stop selling older iPhone models in China.

What’s peculiar about this ruling is that it only covers old models—the iPhone 6S/Plus, 7/Plus, 8/Plus, and iPhone X. Apple says it’s appealing the ruling. Perhaps more strangely, the patents being contested here are not the wireless patents that are at the core of Apple’s dispute with Qualcomm:

The ruling in China involved two Qualcomm patents. One lets consumers adjust and reformat the size and appearance of photographs. The other manages applications using a touch screen when viewing, navigating and dismissing applications, Qualcomm said.

Clearly Qualcomm’s using some questionable software patents to make trouble for Apple in order to force it to settle and pay Qualcomm what it says Apple owes. I’ve seen reports that say these patents aren’t even relevant on iOS 12, but Qualcomm’s general counsel told the Times that this wasn’t the case.

Qualcomm’s attacks on Apple have become more frequent and are getting uglier. Back to the Times:

Qualcomm has tried to put pressure on Apple by claiming patent infringement and other misdeeds, such as accusations that Apple stole proprietary Qualcomm software and shared it with Intel. Apple said Qualcomm had failed to provide evidence of any stolen information.

Qualcomm has also resorted to an aggressive public-relations campaign against Apple. It enlisted the firm Definers Public Affairs to publish negative articles about Apple on a conservative website and to start a false campaign to draft Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, as a presidential candidate, presumably to make him a target of President Trump.

The Definers story is particularly sleazy. As a non-lawyer I can’t speak to the validity of the claims made on both sides of this case, but it’s clear that Qualcomm has decided to play hardball—whether out of desperation or confidence, I don’t know.

—Linked by Jason Snell

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