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Judge Sides With Apple in $1 Billion Qualcomm Dispute

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Call it Schrodinger's Fortune: A U.S. District Court judge decided on Thursday that Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $1 billion in rebate payments, Reuters reports. But Qualcomm won't be expected to write a check unless it loses the case when it heads to trial in April.

This is just the latest development in a years-long dispute between Apple and Qualcomm regarding the use of certain modem technologies in the iPhone. Apple kicked things off with $1 billion lawsuits in the U.S. and China in 2017. Since then, the companies have repeatedly butted heads in and out of court.

It's hard to believe the arrangement between Qualcomm and Apple was established in the first place. Apple suppliers had to pay Qualcomm to use its technologies in the iPhone. Qualcomm was then supposed to reimburse Apple for the fees, provided the company didn't complain to regulators or attack Qualcomm in court.

Qualcomm said Apple violated that agreement by telling other companies to complain to regulators about similar arrangements. It also claimed that Apple made "false and misleading" statements during a Korean Fair Trade Commission investigation into Qualcomm. 

The company also doesn't plan to pay Apple the $1 billion in rebate payments even if it loses the case. Qualcomm executive vice president and general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement to Reuters: “Apple has already offset the payment at issue under the agreement against royalties that were owed to Qualcomm."

Rosenberg was referring to Apple's decision to halt royalty payments in April 2017. Qualcomm has already accounted for the withheld payments in its financial statements, so Rosenberg essentially said the $1 billion it's lost from lack of payments should count as the $1 billion it would pay if it lost this case.

Still, the decision supports Apple, at least in this particular case. The companies will continue to fight it out in court rooms around the world; there's no end in sight for this dispute.