For the past two years, Apple has been embroiled in a worldwide legal battle with Qualcomm. The dispute started at the beginning of 2017 when Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion. Apple claimed that the chip manufacturer had been charging excessive amounts for the use of its patents, which Apple argued was anti-competitive because it’s almost impossible to make a smartphone without them. Apple also claimed that Qualcomm was withholding $1 billion it was owed because it had cooperated with a South Korean investigation into the company.
The legal battle has continued ever since, and both companies are now fighting various proxy wars across the world. Qualcomm has tried to get Apple’s phones banned in the US, Germany, and China, and both companies have sued and countersued each other over numerous supposed patent violations. Qualcomm has even accused Apple of sharing its code with rival modem manufacturer Intel.
In the background, there could be an even bigger challenge for Qualcomm, which is also being sued by the Federal Trade Commission over alleged anti-competitive practices. The company has already been fined by regulators in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and the EU over the way it licenses its patents.
The battle is showing no sign of slowing, so read on for all of the latest news on this lengthy legal fight.
Jun 27, 2022
Supreme Court rejects Apple’s bid to continue fighting over two Qualcomm patents
The Supreme Court declined Apple’s bid (pdf) for a hearing over two Qualcomm patents (US Patent No. 7,844,037 and US Patent No. 8,683,362) that were part of lawsuits filed in 2017, claiming infringement by Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches.Read Article >
Reuters points out that Apple and Qualcomm’s 2019 settlement of a worldwide legal battle over patents largely ended the squabbling in favor of a six-year licensing agreement but allowed a case in front of the Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board to continue. There, Apple argued the two patents should be invalid, but the board ruled in Qualcomm’s favor.
Jul 25, 2019
Apple buys Intel’s smartphone modem business
Apple will acquire “the majority” of Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, the two companies announced today. Around 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, and Apple will acquire IP and equipment from Intel as well. The transaction is expected to close toward the end of the year.Read Article >
Intel won’t be getting out of the modem business entirely. It’ll still be able to develop modems for PCs, Internet of Things devices, autonomous vehicles, and seemingly anything that’s not a smartphone. Intel CEO Bob Swan said the acquisition will allow the company to focus on developing other 5G technologies.
Apr 17, 2019
Five big questions about Apple and Qualcomm’s surprise settlement
On the second day of their blockbuster trial, Apple and Qualcomm announced that they had reached a settlement and would “dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide.” It’s a surprisingly amicable result, especially considering the two years of legal battles that led up to it. But the publicly announced details have left some major questions about what happened and the big implications for Apple’s first 5G phone.Read Article >
Apple first announced it was suing Qualcomm back in January 2017 over allegedly unfair patent fees for smartphone modems, after which the two companies got to work taking pot shots at one another. Qualcomm attempted (with some success) to get iPhones banned in Apple’s key markets over patent infringements, and it even claimed that Apple had stolen its proprietary technology and given it to its main competitor, Intel.
Apr 16, 2019
Intel says it will exit the 5G phone business as Apple and Qualcomm strike multiyear deal
Intel this evening says it has decided to leave the 5G mobile modem market to focus its efforts more on 4G and 5G modems for PCs and smart home devices, as well as its broader 5G infrastructure business. The announcement comes just hours after Apple and Qualcomm struck a surprise settlement in the two companies’ ongoing patent infringement and royalties dispute related to Apple’s use of Qualcomm modems in the iPhone.Read Article >
It’s likely Intel’s decision here was what prompted Apple and Qualcomm’s decision to settle — which came as quite a surprise since it happened just as lawyers were presenting opening arguments at the latest courtroom trial that began yesterday in Southern California. But it’s unclear when Intel came to this decision, or when it informed Apple, and Intel declined to comment. Either way, phone manufacturers like Apple will need to look elsewhere for their 5G radios now, and that means Intel just ceded that business to Qualcomm.
Mar 26, 2019
Judge recommends import ban on iPhones after latest Apple vs. Qualcomm verdict
The latest chapter in the ongoing and messy Apple versus Qualcomm legal battle might mean a US import ban on some iPhone models. A US trade judge has found Apple guilty of infringing on two Qualcomm patents related to power management and data download speeds. As a result, the judge — International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara — says some iPhone models containing competing Intel modems might be blocked from shipping from China, where they’re manufactured, to the US.Read Article >
The judgment is still pending review by the ITC. And it’s possible that, on review, things could change: in a separate ITC ruling today, Qualcomm lost another opportunity for an iPhone ban after an initial finding of patent infringement was rejected by the full commission.
Feb 14, 2019
Apple’s workaround to Qualcomm patent woes in Germany is to use Qualcomm chips
The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus are once again available in Germany, after a patent dispute forced Apple to withdraw the sale of the phones at the beginning of January (via The Wall Street Journal). In a statement, the company said that “to ensure all iPhone models can again be available to customers in Germany, we have no choice but to stop using Intel chips and ship our phones with Qualcomm chips in Germany.”Read Article >
The workaround mirrors a move by the company in China, where Apple released a software update in the region that tweaked one of its animations in an attempt to circumvent the sales ban. Qualcomm had previously won a court injunction, which banned Apple from importing some older iPhone models in the country.
Jan 14, 2019
Apple says Qualcomm refused to sell it chips for the latest iPhones
Apple says it wanted to use Qualcomm modems in the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR — but that Qualcomm refused to sell them after Apple sued over its licensing practices. “In the end they would not support us or sell us chips,” Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams revealed today during his testimony to the US Federal Trade Commission, as spotted by CNET. Apple had to use Intel’s LTE chips instead.Read Article >
Qualcomm is currently on trial, accused of engaging in monopolistic practices including charging unusually high royalty rates, refusing to license patents to other chipmakers, and promising deals to customers like Apple if they exclusively used Qualcomm chips.
Jan 4, 2019
Apple stops selling iPhone 7 and 8 in its German stores following Qualcomm court win
Apple has pulled the sales of the iPhone 7 and 8 from its German website and stores, following a ruling in the District Court of Munich. The ruling said that those two models of the iPhone were infringing on Qualcomm’s intellectual property related to power savings in smartphones, via TechCrunch.Read Article >
While the ruling occurred last month, Qualcomm was required by the court to post €1.34 billion in security bonds before it would be enforced, which is now occurring. A quick check of Apple’s German site confirms the change: only the newer iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max are listed; the iPhone 7 and 8 are nowhere to be found. Apple has already said that it plans to appeal the ruling, but while that process takes place, it won’t be able to sell the iPhone 7 or 8 in its own retail channels.
Dec 20, 2018
Apple will pull older iPhones from its German stores after Qualcomm wins partial ban
Apple will be pulling iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models from its stores in Germany following a win for Qualcomm in the District Court of Munich, which ruled that Apple’s devices were infringing on Qualcomm’s intellectual property related to power savings in smartphones.Read Article >
According to CNBC, Apple is already working to appeal the ruling, but the company has stated that as part of that process, it will be suspending sales of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in the 15 Apple stores in Germany. Newer devices, like the iPhone XS and XR, are unaffected by the ruling, and the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 will still be available from third-party sellers and carriers as well.
Dec 19, 2018
Apple tweaks iOS animation in China in attempt to avoid sales ban
Apple released a tiny update to iOS this week designed to avoid a sales ban in China. iOS version 12.1.2 contains software changes exclusive to China that are designed to circumvent Apple’s patent dispute with Qualcomm, which won an initial sales ban over claims that Apple violated a pair of its patents.Read Article >
The update changes the animation for when an app is forced to close, according to MacRumors, seemingly avoiding a Qualcomm patent around app management. Previously a closed app would slide off the top of the screen, but it now shrinks and disappears into the middle of the screen.
Dec 14, 2018
Apple plans iPhone software update to reverse Chinese ban
Apple claims it has found a software solution to the court injunction which recently banned some of its older iPhones from being sold in China. In a statement to Reuters the company said it would be issuing a software update “early next week” which it believes will address “the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case.” If the courts agree, this update will mean that Apple can continue to sell the iPhones affected by the ban, which include the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, and X.Read Article >
Apple was recently found to be infringing upon two of Qualcomm’s patents in China, which were reportedly relating to resizing pictures and managing applications. When the ban was first announced, Apple claimed to CNBC that iOS 12 — the most recent version of its software — does not infringe on those patents. If true, then issuing an update to force the affected iPhone models to update to iOS 12 could be enough to reverse the decision. Apple has already filed a request for reconsideration in China over the ban.
Dec 13, 2018
Qualcomm asks China to ban the iPhone XS and XR
Qualcomm is trying to get the latest iPhones banned from China after a recent win in court delivered a preliminary ban on Apple’s older phones. According to the Financial Times, Qualcomm has now asked Chinese courts to issue an injunction that bans Apple from selling the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR within the country due to the same case of possible patent infringement.Read Article >
The new filing will escalate the companies’ legal conflict in China, where Apple has so far ignored a court-ordered sales ban. Apple claims the ban only applied to phones running iOS 11 and earlier. Since its phones have now been updated to iOS 12, Apple believes they can remain on sale, and so it has continued to sell them.
Dec 12, 2018
Looks like Apple’s making its own modem to compete with Qualcomm
Apple is apparently working on its own, in-house developed modem to allow it to better compete with Qualcomm, according to several new Apple job listings that task engineers to design and develop a layer 1 cellular PHY chip — implying that the company is working on actual, physical networking hardware. Two of the job posts are explicitly to hire a pair of cellular modem systems architects, one in Santa Clara and one in San Diego, home of Qualcomm. That’s alongside several other job postings Apple has listed in San Diego for RF design engineers.Read Article >
The Information, which spotted the first job posting, cites sources that go a step further, claiming that Apple is not only potentially working to develop its own modem, but is in fact specifically targeting it for use in future iPhones, with the company looking to leave longtime partner Intel behind in favor of its own, in-house solution.
Dec 10, 2018
Qualcomm wins court injunction banning Apple from importing older iPhones in China
Qualcomm just scored a major victory in its ongoing legal battle with Apple: the chipmaker won a preliminary injunction from a Chinese court that would ban the sale and import of many of Apple’s recent iPhone models in China, including the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, and X, via Axios. Apple downplayed the significance of the decision, noting to CNBC that iOS 12 (which is supported by all of the phones in the ruling) avoids the patent conflict. The company also says that it is still selling the devices in China.Read Article >
Qualcomm has been trying to ban iPhone sales in China for over a year, following an attempt to ban sales in the US (although that ban has yet to be upheld by regulators). These bans are just one part of a long-ranging legal battle, which has seen accusations from Apple that Qualcomm was using its market dominance to unreasonably raise prices, and Qualcomm claiming that Apple stole Qualcomm’s source code to share with rival modem supplier Intel.
Dec 1, 2018
Judge sets trial date for Qualcomm’s lawsuit against Apple
A federal judge has set a trial date for Qualcomm’s lawsuit against Apple: April 15th, 2019. The San Diego Union-Tribune says that both sides have been unable to reach a settlement in the case in which Qualcomm accused Apple of sharing proprietary code with rival chipmaker Intel.Read Article >
According to the Union-Tribune, Apple’s lawyers have dismissed the possibility of a settlement between the two companies that would avert a trial. Qualcomm had hoped to go to court in February, but US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel set the April date, noting the complexity of the situation, and to “accommodate the court’s schedule.”
Nov 6, 2018
Qualcomm must license patents to competing chipmakers, court rules
Qualcomm was dealt a major loss in one of its many ongoing legal battles this afternoon, with a federal court ruling that the company must license its modem patents to competing chipmakers, potentially weakening its stranglehold on the market.Read Article >
The ruling came out of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Qualcomm, which was filed near the start of 2017. The crux of the lawsuit — whether Qualcomm used anti-competitive practices to maintain a monopoly over smartphone modems — isn’t being ruled on here. But the court did hone in on a single question at issue: whether Qualcomm has to license standard essential patents to competitors.
Sep 25, 2018
Blockbuster Qualcomm lawsuit claims Apple stole modem tech and gave it to Intel
Qualcomm says that Apple has been stealing its wireless technology for several years in order to eventually rid itself of the need to rely on Qualcomm components. Apple is alleged to have given Qualcomm’s code to Intel, in order to boost Intel’s modem speeds, which are known to be slower.Read Article >
The claims come in the latest update to Qualcomm and Apple’s blockbuster legal battle, which started close to two years ago with Apple claiming that Qualcomm was abusing its position as the dominant supplier of smartphone modems to demand unreasonable fees.
Aug 10, 2018
Qualcomm and Taiwanese regulators settle $774 million antitrust suit
After being slapped with a $774 million fine for antitrust violations, Qualcomm has reached an agreement with Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission to remedy the situation. The California-based tech giant will only be forced to pay $93 million of the initial fine — money which it has already paid — and it must follow a handful of other rules put in place by the Taiwanese regulator.Read Article >
The dispute arose after Taiwan’s regulator said that the chip maker abused its monopoly power over smartphone modems by putting higher patent licensing fees on companies that use the devices in their products. Last October when the initial fine had been announced, Taiwan’s FTC claimed that the patents Qualcomm holds over its chip designs kept other potential chip makers from finding a footing in the market. Both China and South Korea had already fined Qualcomm over accusations of anti-competitive behavior, and Apple has put forth several lawsuits against Qualcomm for similar practices.
Jul 25, 2018
Apple will exclusively use Intel modems in 2018 iPhones, according to Qualcomm
Apple’s ongoing dispute with Qualcomm looks like it will have a big impact on the components used in this year’s upcoming iPhone models, according to Qualcomm chief financial officer George Davis. On an earnings call this afternoon, Davis said, “Apple intends to solely use our competitor’s modems rather than our modems in its next iPhone release,” as reported by CNET. Davis didn’t mention Intel by name, but Intel is the only other supplier of that component for Apple’s smartphones.Read Article >
That lines up with a report earlier this year from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, which said that Apple would ditch Qualcomm as its long-time supplier of cellular modems as a result of its legal dispute with the chipmaker. With the roll out of 4G, Apple began using both Qualcomm and Intel modems, though Qualcomm has long prided itself on providing faster components. The company this week touted speed tests for its Snapdragon 845 chip as proving its products are superior to Intel’s, possibly in an attempt to preempt negative reaction to Davis’ revelation today.
Jan 24, 2018
Qualcomm fined $1.2 billion by the EU for paying off Apple
Qualcomm has been hit by a fine of €997 million ($1.2 billion) from the European Union for violating antitrust laws in a series of deals with Apple.Read Article >
The US chipmaker is accused of paying the iPhone-maker billions of dollars between 2011 and 2016 to exclusively use its 4G chips in the iPhone and iPad. “This meant that no rival could effectively challenge Qualcomm in this market, no matter how good their products were,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a press statement. “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules and why we have taken today’s decision.”
Nov 30, 2017
Qualcomm is trying to ban the iPhone X used by AT&T and T-Mobile
Qualcomm and Apple’s tit for tat legal battle continues yet again this week with a series of new filings from Qualcomm, one of which seeks to ban some iPhone X sales in the US.Read Article >
Three new lawsuits allege that Apple is infringing 16 Qualcomm patents with the iPhone 7, 8, and X, as well as their Plus models. Many of the patents cover technology that improves battery life, but others focus on additional smartphone tech. In one case, Qualcomm says Apple is relying on its patented technology to create the iPhone’s Portrait Mode effect.
Nov 29, 2017
Apple claims Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors use its patented technology
Apple and Qualcomm’s legal battle continues today with a new claim of patent infringement focused on some of Qualcomm’s top processors.Read Article >
Apple claims that Qualcomm is infringing eight battery life patents with its processors. In particular, it singles out the Snapdragon 800 and the Snapdragon 820. Those aren’t Qualcomm’s most recent processors, but they’re part of Qualcomm’s flagship line and powered high-end phones as recently as a year ago.
Nov 2, 2017
Qualcomm sues Apple, accusing it of sharing chip code with Intel
Qualcomm has launched another lawsuit against Apple, accusing the iPhone maker of sharing proprietary code with Intel, according to a report from Bloomberg.Read Article >
The lawsuit claims that Apple breached contract with Qualcomm in regard to software that’s required to allow mobile chips to interact with the rest of a phone. It’s the latest in a series of lawsuits between the two companies, which kicked off back in January when Apple sued Qualcomm and accused the chip maker of overcharging for use of patents.
Oct 13, 2017
Qualcomm is trying to get iPhone sales banned in China
Qualcomm has launched a new lawsuit against Apple, asking a Chinese court to block the sale and manufacturing of iPhones within the country, according to Bloomberg. This is the latest strike in a legal war between the two companies, which started out in the US and has since expanded worldwide.Read Article >
In its lawsuit, Qualcomm reportedly claims that Apple is in violation of three patents, none of which are essential to any industry standards — meaning Qualcomm isn’t obligated to license them. "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them,” a Qualcomm spokesperson told Bloomberg. Those patents are said to cover power management and the iPhone’s Force Touch feature.
Oct 11, 2017
Qualcomm fined $774 million for abusing monopoly on smartphone modems in Taiwan
Qualcomm has been hit with a nearly $774 million fine by Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission, which said today that the chip maker abused its monopoly over smartphone modems to squeeze higher licensing fees and better terms out of its customers. Taiwan is only the latest country to go after Qualcomm over its expensive and onerous licensing terms: China and South Korea have both fined the company in the past two years, and Apple is now engaged in a series of global lawsuits against Qualcomm over many of the same practices.Read Article >
The commission said that Qualcomm’s dominance in CDMA and LTE chips, as well as its major patent holdings for both technologies, let the company abuse its position and refuse to license necessary patents. It’ll now be required to end those practices and parts of unfavorable deals it forged with other companies.