For better or worse, this decade has marked an explosion of mobile-related lawsuits and anti-trust actions across the globe. Now, that trend is reaching what may be its apex, with Qualcomm filing a countersuit against their increasingly distant customer, Apple.

This latest suit comes in response to Apple taking action against Qualcomm earlier this year in multiple forms. At the regulatory level, Apple has been levying complaints against Qualcomm for some time, providing evidence and testimony that is being used in anti-trust suits against Qualcomm, particularly the most-recent suit by the US FTC in January of this year. The crux of the regulatory suits has been over Qualcomm’s patent and technology licensing business, and whether the company was refusing to follow FRAND policies while charging unreasonably high royalties. Meanwhile at the business level, in the same month Apple also sued Qualcomm directly over many of the same issues, along with accusing the company of withholding a billion dollars in rebates.

Qualcomm’s countersuit, which was all but expected, forms the backbone of the company’s response to Apple’s own suit and involvement in regulatory actions. In a short press release, the company noted that they intend to “vigorously defend” their business model, while laying out a case for why they believe Apple is in the wrong and why Apple should owe them damages.

A big part of Qualcomm’s countersuit, unsurprisingly, is focused around Apple’s hand in various regulatory suits, accusing the company of “misrepresenting facts and making false statements.” Qualcomm is also accusing Apple of generally mischaracterizing their business interactions with Qualcomm, and interfering with Qualcomm’s business relationships with the third-party firms that actually manufacture Apple’s iOS devices. All told, Qualcomm is accusing Apple of taking several steps to force them to agree to lower licensing rates, and that in doing so Apple violated FRAND principles.

However the most interesting points from Qualcomm’s countersuit involves the iPhone 7, which is the first phone from Apple in several years to offer models without a Qualcomm modem. Here, Qualcomm is specifically accusing Apple of not utilizing the full performance of the Qualcomm modems in those models, while also threatening Qualcomm to prevent them from publicly touting the performance of the Qualcomm-powered models.

Both of these points are almost certainly related to Apple’s configuration choices with the various iPhone 7 models. While the Snapdragon X12 used in the Qualcomm-powered iPhones is capable of LTE Category 12 features, the Intel XMM 7360 modem used in the other models is only capable of LTE Category 10. Presumably to ensure the phones’ abilities were consistent, Apple opted not to enable many Cat 12 features on the Qualcomm models, such as 4x4 MIMO and 256-QAM, essentially limiting it to the same 450Mbps down speed as the Intel models.

In any case, at this point the gloves have come off and Qualcomm is not holding back on their increasingly distant customer. Qualcomm’s countersuit isn’t asking for any specific compensation at this time, but the company is looking to be awarded both compensatory and punitive damages from Apple. And with two of the biggest technology companies in the US now locked into mutual legal combat, it’s likely that this series of lawsuits will go the distance.

Source: Qualcomm

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  • toukale - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    If this is it for Qualcomm then, there is trouble ahead. Apple looks to have a better case here, since many governments have fined Qualcomm in excess of over $1 billion dollars last year for anti-trust and they were able to do that because Apple cooperated with them. Qualcomm got mad at Apple for their role in helping the government of different countries and held the rebate money. That's not even touching the anti-trust stuff that Apple accused them of and they were fined for.
  • Ariknowsbest - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    Antitrust fines from China and South Korea can be viewed as political to support local suppliers.
  • ckbryant - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    Qualcomm is not supplying patents on FRAND terms, this is the main reason why you never see any Samsung processors outside of Samsung's phones because Qualcomm won't license them the patents on Fair, Reasonable, and NonDiscrim Licensing terms. Qualcomm is also not allowing anyone to license their tech to use in others modems; they force a fee so high that it's cheaper to comply and just use their modems. It's no surprise why Apple wouldn't eventually bite the worm and use Intel even though it meant having lower performance if it meant bringing Qualcomm to the table with pricing. However, the Antitrust issues in South Korea and etc may be a political ploy. That I agree with; but you can't say that Qualcomm hasn't used their "brute patent portfolio" to stifle others gains and etc. A patent is just a two decade monopoly if you look at it; theres reasons why Qualcomm wont even tell people how it's Snapdragon chips works or whats the ROP make up or whether it uses certain forms of rendering because if they admit how it works it opens them up to litigation because then their admitting to patent infringement. These days it isn't hard to infringe on a needlessly simple patent which should've never been given. Qualcomm has a wonderful portfolio but they don't normally play ball fair when it comes to licensing the portfolio; maybe they can go into business with United Airlines they both beat their customers.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - link

    There are at least two other companies using Samsung Exynos SoCs in phones. They tend to be one generation behind the latest, but they are being used by others.
  • webdoctors - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - link

    They should just have a thunderdome and whoever leaves wins. 2 parties enter, only 1 exits!

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