Qualcomm confident it will prevail in patent disputes

Qualcomm building
Qualcomm reported fiscal first-quarter revenue of $4.8 billion. (FierceWireless)

Qualcomm executives are—not surprisingly—optimistic they’re headed for victories in patent disputes with Apple, and they’re jazzed about the company’s prospects in the 5G device arena.

Qualcomm has one of the largest patent portfolios in the world, and it’s critical that it protects its IP and makes sure it is compensated for its inventions and investments, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said during the company’s quarterly conference call Wednesday.  

Qualcomm reported fiscal first-quarter revenue of $4.8 billion, which was in line with its guidance but lower than the $6 billion recorded in the year-ago quarter.  

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Qualcomm is expecting favorable decisions in the coming months in the U.S., China and Germany as more cases go to trial. Tuesday, it concluded arguments in a San Jose courtroom involving the Federal Trade Commission, which accuses the chipmaker of imposing unfair licensing terms on customers like Apple.

“We believe the FTC’s case is based on a flawed anti-trust theory and that it failed to meet its burden of proof for its claims,” Mollenkopf said.

Qualcomm said it has proved in court that its agreements with Apple were run-of-the-mill agreements that were actually demanded by Apple to win its business. And while Qualcomm is hopeful the law and fact-based analysis will come down in its favor, it continues to look for an opportunity to reach a negotiated settlement with the FTC, according to Mollenkopf.

RELATED: Apple accuses Qualcomm of monopolistic practices in FTC trial

Apple has asserted that it wanted to buy Qualcomm’s chips but wasn’t able to; at the same time, Intel is coming out with its 5G chip later this year. In light of these events, Qualcomm was asked what the deadline might be for Apple to settle and get Qualcomm’s technology into its products by the fall.

“I would say we feel very, very comfortable with where our road map is relative to the competitors,” which doesn’t mean there aren’t competitors out there, Mollenkopf said. In terms of when a person would need to make a decision, “it’s hard for me to say,” he said. Typically, you need to make decisions in the first quarter of this year if you want to make an impact on products going into next year. But “I couldn’t speak for other folks,” he added. Some OEMs, particularly in Asia, move more quickly.

As for the visibility into next year, “one of the things we like about 5G is it’s not a static target,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. It’s a moving target with multiple variations of 5G capabilities. “We’re very optimistic” about how significant 5G will be in the coming years.

“Stay tuned” to this year’s Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, he teased, saying it will be very exciting in the smartphone arena.

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