Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) will ask the U.S. International Trade Commission to bar Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) from selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States. The San Diego-based company wants the injunction approved on the grounds that the devices infringe on six Qualcomm patents. A related lawsuit was filed in federal court in California to request monetary damages.
The injunction would be against Apple products that use chips made by competitor Intel Corp. Intel began supplying chips for some iPhones starting with the iPhone 7. Qualcomm’s complaint asked the body to ban “iPhones that use cellular baseband processors other than those supplied by Qualcomm’s affiliates.”
Qualcomm did not specifically name Intel in its complaint and has not alleged that the Intel chips violate its patents. However, it claims that that the way Apple implements them in the iPhone does amount to a violation. Qualcomm’s general counsel Don Rosenberg said, “They’re taking advantage of these new technologies and they’re not paying for them.”
The ITC is a popular venue for patent disputes because it handles cases relatively quickly. ITC cases typically take about 16 months to conclude. The ITC can also more easily bar an infringing product from the U.S. market than federal courts.
The request is the latest volley in an increasingly bitter legal battle. Qualcomm and Apple have been fighting over Qualcomm’s practice of taking a cut of the total price of the phone as a licensing fee for using its technology. The patents let Qualcomm take a cut of the sale of every modern smartphone, even if the device isn’t using any of its chips.
Apple argues the system is unfair. An Apple spokesman said the company has always been willing to pay a fair rate for standard technology used in its products. The tech giant claims that it attempted to negotiate fair licensing terms with Qualcomm for years without success.
In January, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm accusing it of using “anticompetitive” tactics to maintain a monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. The FTC lawsuit said that Qualcomm used its dominant position to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers.
Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion shortly after, accusing it of overcharging for chips. Apple’s suit also accused Qualcomm of withholding promised rebates because of Apple’s discussions with South Korea’s antitrust regulators regarding an investigation into Qualcomm. Those cases continue.