ITC To Review Import Ban On Apple iPhones And Its Impact On U.S. Interests

Apple and Qualcomm have a very long-running legal battle that has seen the two fighting in court over patent infringement and chip royalties. Qualcomm was also granted an import ban on some iPhones in China, but that ban had no teeth according to Apple. While Qualcomm's CEO has stated it is nearing the end of the legal war with Apple, that seems unlikely. 

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The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has now announced that it would review a ruling that banned the import of some iPhone models into the U.S., which it says is not in the public interest even if Apple infringed on the patents. The ITC case was initiated by Qualcomm back in July 2017 when it accused Apple of implementing Intel chips in a way that infringed on Qualcomm patents. 

The original complaint listed six Qualcomm patents that were for technology that helps smartphones improve performance without impacting battery life. Three of the patents were removed from the case by Qualcomm, and now-retired judge Thomas Pender ruled in September that Apple did infringe on one of the patents in the case, but said Cupertino didn't infringe on the other two patents. Despite ruling Apple did violate one of the patents, Pender recommended that the ITC not grant Qualcomm the injunctive relief it was seeking stating that the injunction was not in the U.S. interest.

The ITC review will reconsider if Apple did infringe on the single patent as Pender initially ruled and if the tribunal was correct in granting the injunction to Qualcomm. The two patents Pender ruled Apple didn't infringe on aren't set for review. The ITC intends to consider how long it will take Apple to design around Qualcomm's patented battery-saving tech and if there are national security concerns implicated by the sales ban. The ITC will also see if a limited import ban can be considered; the final ruling is due before February 19.