German court dismisses latest Qualcomm patent suit against Apple

Apple and Qualcomm are battling over patents worldwide. 

Angela Lang/Techhnews

A German court on Tuesday dismissed Qualcomm’s latest patent suit against Apple, calling the claims “unfounded.”

The case is related to something called “bulk tension” or voltage in iPhones. The ruling from a regional court in Mannheim, translated from German, said Apple didn’t infringe Qualcomm’s patents because voltage in smartphones isn’t constant. It dismissed the claim but said Qualcomm could appeal the ruling, something the company said it plans to do. 

Tuesday’s Mannheim ruling deals a blow to Qualcomm, which has largely been successful in cases against Apple. Last month, a court in Munich found that Apple infringed Qualcomm’s technology for power savings in smartphones and ruled that the iPhone maker must halt sales of the device in Germany. And earlier that month, a Chinese court ordered four of Apple’s Chinese subsidiaries to stop importing or selling iPhones due to patent infringement. 

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Apple said in a statement that it’s happy with the decision. “We regret Qualcomm’s use of the court to divert attention from their illegal behavior that is the subject of multiple lawsuits and proceedings around the world,” the statement says.

Qualcomm General Counsel Don Rosenberg noted in a statement Qualcomm’s recent victories in Chinese, German and US courts. 

“Apple has a history of infringing our patents,” he said. “The Mannheim court interpreted one aspect of our patent very narrowly, saying that because a voltage inside a part of an iPhone wasn’t constant the patent wasn’t infringed. We strongly disagree and will appeal.”

Patent battle

Apple and Qualcomm have been fighting over patents since January 2017, when Apple filed suit against Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying the company didn’t offer fair licensing terms for its technology. Apple wants to pay less to use Qualcomm technology in its devices. Qualcomm responded by suing Apple for patent infringement and seeking a ban on iPhone sales. The company maintains that no modern handset, including the iPhone, would’ve been possible without its cellular technologies.

At the same time it’s battling with Apple, Qualcomm is facing other suits by governments around the globe, including the US. 

The FTC and Qualcomm this month are fighting in a San Jose, California, court over whether Qualcomm has a monopoly on modem chips and harmed competition by trying to maintain its power. The FTC, aided by Apple and modem-chip rival Intel, filed suit only days before Apple’s suit in early 2017. The trial has revealed the inner workings of tech’s most important business, smartphones, showing how suppliers wrestle for dominance and profit.

Apple executives, including Operating Chief Jeff Williams, have taken the witness stand for the FTC, to argue that Qualcomm hurt competition and ultimately caused higher prices for phones. 

The FTC will rest its case Tuesday, and Qualcomm will begin offering its defense. 

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