Judge Sets Trial Date For Apple vs Qualcomm Despite Claims Of Swift Patent Royalty Resolution

A long overdue federal trial is officially on the horizon: Qualcomm and Apple will meet in a San Diego federal court on April 15, 2019. The two companies have already been battling each other for more than a year over LTE modem licensing fees and patents.

Qualcomm originally wanted the jury trial to take place in February, but the date was delayed. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel noted that the two companies would need to accommodate the court’s busy schedule. He also argued that extra time was needed due to the complexity of the case.

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Before the trial date was announced, some had speculated that Qualcomm and Apple were far along in settlement talks. Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf recently remarked that the two companies were “on the doorstep of finding a resolution”. Apple attorney William Isaacson denied the rumors, however, and noted that “there haven’t been talks in months.”

Why are Qualcomm and Apple at each other’s throats? Apple has accused Qualcomm of violating patent, contract and antitrust laws by getting paid twice for their patents. Qualcomm technically receives money both when they license their patent portfolio and when they sell a modem chip. Qualcomm argues that it is legally in the right. The company contends that its patent portfolio protects a system-wide approach to its technology. Apple also claims that Qualcomm has tried to receive patent fees for technology that it does not own.

Qualcomm has accused Apple of sharing trade secrets with Intel to help them improve that company's LTE modem performance. Qualcomm believes that Apple has violated the master software agreement that it signed. Qualcomm also argues that Apple owes over $7 billion USD in back royalty payments.

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Qualcomm and Apple have also battled each other outside of the courtroom. The 2018 iPhone and iPad Pro devices all use Intel 4G LTE modems, and Apple’s 2020 devices will reportedly incorporate Intel 5G modems. Qualcomm has attempted to block iPhone sales in the United States, Germany, and China.

Both Qualcomm and Apple have other trials to prepare for too. Apple faces off in the Supreme Court tomorrow. Apple has been accused of violating antitrust laws by forcing consumers to install software through its App Store and charging developers a 30% commission. If Apple loses the cases, this could be a major blow to its revenue model. The App Store generated $37.2 billion this past fiscal year.

Qualcomm, on the other hand, will be battling against the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC argues that Qualcomm promised to make relevant patents available for use and has not kept its word. Qualcomm insists that this condition does not force it to license technology to rival companies. Their trial is scheduled for January 4, 2019 at the U.S. District Court in San Jose. Both Apple and Qualcomm’s additional trials could affect the outcome of their dispute. Only time will tell who ends up on top.