Following Qualcomm Complaint, ITC Starts Investigating Apple

Qualcomm announced that the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has begun investigating Apple, based on a complaint filed by Qualcomm on July 7.

Qualcomm’s Request To Bar iPhone Importation

Qualcomm requested that the iPhones and iPads that allegedly infringe on up to six of its patents be barred from being imported into the U.S. Following this complaint, the ITC began an investigation to determine whether or not Apple is infringing on Qualcomm’s patents, as the modem company claimed.

“Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC's decision to investigate Apple’s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm’s patents,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm. “We look forward to the ITC’s expeditious investigation of Apple’s ongoing infringement of our intellectual property and the accelerated relief that the Commission can provide,” he added.

A Chain Of Events For The Apple-Qualcomm Conflict

As both Apple and Qualcomm are quite secretive, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the animosities between the two companies began. However, we have some clues that one of the first events that created the conflict was when Apple aided the Korean Federal Trade Commission in its antitrust investigation against Qualcomm.

The investigation led to an $873 million fine against Qualcomm, so the modem company must not have been too happy about Apple’s cooperation with Korea’s antitrust body. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple was the first to start the conflict. It’s possible Apple helped the KFTC because it was already frustrated with Qualcomm’s royalty rates or other Qualcomm actions, and may have thought the KFTC investigation had merit.

Another event that may have helped raise tension between the two companies was Apple deciding to use Intel’s modems inside some of last year’s mobile devices.

Then the U.S. FTC filed charges against Qualcomm, too, and Intel and Samsung joined the fun by claiming that Qualcomm has been abusing its leadership position in the mobile market to stop the two companies from fairly competing with their own chip solutions. Apple also filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm, claiming that Qualcomm was "charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with.” That lawsuit was quickly followed by another suit, this time in Beijing, for 1 billion yuan.

Qualcomm then filed a counter-claim lawsuit against Apple, stating that Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of the Qualcomm modems in its latest iPhone so that there was no discernible difference between the Intel and the Qualcomm modems. Qualcomm added that Apple has been making false claims to investigators, too.

Last month, around the same time it was filing its complaint to the ITC, Qualcomm launched another lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, making the same accusation that Apple has been infringing on six of its patents.

Qualcomm also started a lawsuit against Apple in Germany, where the modem company seeks damages and an injunction to stop the importation of infringing iPhones into the country.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.