Qualcomm Steps-Up Apple Patent Infringement Battle By Suing iPhone Suppliers

It seems as though Qualcomm is hoping to put some pressure on Apple to settle a patent infringement lawsuit by going after the companies that supply components for Apple's iPhone and iPad devices. The savvy legal maneuver brings Foxconn into the fight, which is Apple's largest supplier of iPhones and other other products, along with three other Taiwanese manufacturers.

The scuffle between Qualcomm and Apple has to do with a disagreement over royalties. Back in January, Apple accused Qualcomm in a lawsuit of what amounts to extortion by claiming the semiconductor maker withheld $1 billion in promised rebates related to licensing agreements. Apple further accused Qualcomm of "charging for royalties they have nothing to do with."

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Apple's lawsuit came just a few days after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit of its own against Qualcomm, alleging it was using anticompetitive practices to strongarm companies such as Apple into doing business with the company.

"Qualcomm recognized that any competitor that won Apple's business would become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm's competitors," the FTC stated in its lawsuit.

Naturally Qualcomm disagrees with the accusations. The company called Apple's suit baseless while further accusing the iPhone maker of encouraging the FTC to get involved. Qualcomm also alleges that Apple told its contract manufactures to stop paying royalties to Qualcomm, and that it would pay for any damages that might result from doing so.

The legal dispute between the two continues to escalate. Qualcomm upped the ante earlier this month when requested an import ban on iPhone devices into the U.S. If granted, that would be a major blow to Apple, as the U.S. market accounts for 40 percent of its total sales. Apple could potentially lose tens of billions of dollars from an import ban, depending on long it might be put in place.

Following up on that, Qualcomm's attack on Apple's suppliers could have a similar effect if they decide to stop supplying components to Apple until this gets resolved, though Apple is not likely to let that happen.

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