Qualcomm accuses Apple of ‘subterfuge’ in sharing data with Intel

Apple iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max (Apple)
Apple's latest iPhones eschew Qualcomm's products for those from Intel. (Apple)

Qualcomm has accused Apple of a “campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge” as part of the companies’ long-running patent-infringement dispute, arguing that Apple shared Qualcomm’s trade secrets with Intel.

The latest escalation in tensions between Qualcomm and Apple could well serve to further reduce the chance of a settlement between the two wireless giants.

Qualcomm’s latest broadside against Apple—that the iPhone vendor gave Intel some of Qualcomm’s confidential information so that Intel could improve the performance of its modems—was contained in a filing by Qualcomm in a California court. Qualcomm didn’t provide details on its claim, but said that “it is now apparent Apple engaged in a years-long campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge designed to steal Qualcomm's confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of lower-quality modem chipsets, with the ultimate goal of eliminating Qualcomm's Apple-based business.”

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According to The Wall Street Journal, an Apple representative didn’t respond to Qualcomm’s latest allegations but instead referred to past Apple statements about how Qualcomm’s business practices are illegal and harm the smartphone industry. Intel didn’t respond to a request for comment, according to the WSJ.

Nonetheless, the issue again highlights the high-stakes battle among Apple, Qualcomm and Intel.

Apple entered the smartphone industry in 2010 with an iPhone powered by Qualcomm’s silicon, but the company has since replaced Qualcomm’s products with those from Intel—actions that roughly coincided with Apple’s $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm alleging the company charges exorbitant rates for its patents. Qualcomm’s patent-licensing scheme is based on the full cost of a smartphone, whereas Apple has argued that Qualcomm’s licenses should be based on the cost of the individual components that use those patents.

The issue is a major one for both companies: For Qualcomm, the company’s core business relies on sales of silicon as well as sales of patent licenses. Meantime, Apple is one of the world’s largest smartphone vendors and its business in part relies on its ability to obtain suitable components.