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Apple infringed on all three Qualcomm patents in latest trial, jury finds – CNET

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Apple and Qualcomm have been in a heated legal battle.


James Martin/CNET

A jury on Thursday decided that Apple violated all three Qualcomm patents the tech giants have been arguing over in a San Diego trial

Qualcomm, who filed the suit in July 2017, said Apple used the technologies without its permission in some versions of its popular iPhones. 

One patent allows a smartphone to quickly connect to the internet once the device is turned on. Another deals with graphics processing and battery life. The third lets apps on your phone download data more easily by directing traffic between the apps processor and the modem.

In all, Apple owes Qualcomm more than $31 million, the jury said. 

The jury also struck down an argument by Apple that one of its then-employees contributed to the boot-up patent, and should have been named as an inventor. That would have meant the patent was invalid and unable to be infringed. 

That $31 million is just a drop in the bucket for Apple — which briefly became a $1 trillion company last year — but a victory for Qualcomm helps to brandish its reputation as a mobile components innovator and lend credibility to the idea that much of those innovations went into iPhones. 

It also sets the stage for a highly-anticipated trial between the two companies scheduled for next month in San Diego. The dispute, over Qualcomm’s patent royalties with Apple, is worth billions of dollars and will be a crescendo in the tech giants’ wide-ranging legal saga. 

The clash between Apple and Qualcomm began two years ago, when the Federal Trade Commission, with help from  Apple and Intel, accused Qualcomm of being a monopoly in modem chips. The FTC argued Qualcomm’s royalty rates stopped competitors from entering the market and drove up phone prices. That trial took place in January, and the parties are currently waiting for a decision

The trial next month will examine Qualcomm’s licensing business, too. 

The patent case that was decided Thursday, presided over by US District Judge Dana Sabraw, is more technical and less high-profile than the other parts of the legal battle. Still, it could have implications for how your phone is made and how much it costs.

The two sides spent a big portion of the trial fighting over the boot-up patent. Apple argued that one of its then-engineers, Arjuna Siva, made key contributions to the technology and should be named on the patent as well. Apple said Qualcomm stole the idea when the two companies were working together to bring Qualcomm’s chips into iPhones. The trial took a striking twist last week when Siva, who now works for Google, seemingly backed out of appearing, then reversed the decision to testify on Monday.

Even though it’s a patent infringement trial, Apple has argued that it’s not about patents at all for Qualcomm. During closing arguments Wednesday, Apple counsel Juanita Brooks said the “real motivation” for the lawsuit was retaliation for Apple bringing on Intel as a second chip supplier in 2016. She said Qualcomm was upset because the two companies previously had an exclusive relationship since 2011.

Now Intel has replaced Qualcomm in iPhones altogether.

“Qualcomm went into a drawer, dusted off some old patents, and threw them against the wall to see if they’d stick,” she said. In response, Qualcomm counsel David Nelson said, “We’re entitled to get return on our intellectual property.” 

This is a developing story…

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