Qualcomm’s case for iPhone sales ban in US looks shaky
In intellectual property warfare, Apple and Qualcomm are having a rough go at it with each other. It began with the chipmaker being accused of manipulating the market against its competitors with special regard to CDMA networking technology and has since triggered dominos to fall in subject areas like power management chips.
Somewhere in all of this, Qualcomm had applied to the International Trade Commission for a US sales injunciton against iPhones. Twice — one this past December and one last July. The first request, which is predicated on three patents-in-suit that Qualcomm owns, is going through the later stages and is set to be ruled by an administrative law judge.
FOSS Patents reports that the ITC held a hearing on the request today and that Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles E. Bullock had brought up some recommendations from ITC staff — officially known as the Office of Unfair Important Investigations.
The recommendations are not particularly favorable to Qualcomm. One of the patents is thought to not have acheived a watermark of industrial importance, thereby limiting its potential to be a violation of IP rights. The top-line finding that could sink the case is that none of the patents were found to be infringed.
But the most ironic finding was that an import ban would do harm to Qualcomm’s competitor, Intel. Why? Because Qualcomm had decided to limit its request to iPhones with Intel modems inside, presumably to appeal to public-interest criteria. Both companies have shared modem orders in the past and, presumably, in the current day. But that move would leave Apple to sell only iPhones with Qualcomm’s own modems. Thus, Qualcomm would continue supplying product while Intel would not be able to sell its modems to Apple.
The ITC has not traditionally given much weight to the impacts on competition in weighing import bans, but there has been plenty of intertwining between Apple, Intel and Qualcomm in this issue to not be acknowledged.