Qualcomm hits back in patent war over iPhone technologies

iPhone X, 3D sensors
Among other things, Qualcomm is seeking to ban imports of the iPhone X. (Apple)

It didn’t take long for Qualcomm to return fire in its latest flurry in a major patent war with Apple.

The San Diego-based chipmaker filed three new patent complaints against Apple, claiming phones ranging from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone X violate 16 of its intellectual property claims. The filings, which accompany a new complaint filed with the International Trade Commission, are related to power-saving methods, interfaces and camera autofocus technologies, Qualcomm said.

The ITC complaint seeks to ban imports of the iPhone X and other models based on patent claims.

“While Apple built the most successful consumer products in history by relying significantly on technologies pioneered by Qualcomm and others, Apple refuses to pay for those technologies,” Qualcomm said in one complaint. “Instead, as Apple’s founder boasted, Apple ‘steals’ the great ideas of others—specifically, that ‘we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.’ Apple employees likewise admit that Apple—a relatively late entrant in the mobile space—did not invent many of the iPhone’s features.”

Apple declined to comment on Qualcomm’s latest claims, according to Reuters, instead referring to its own filings earlier this week.

Indeed, Qualcomm’s latest move came just a day after Apple filed a countersuit claiming Qualcomm’s popular mobile chip violates at least eight patents held by Apple that are related to battery life. That filing is a revision of an earlier response to a suit Qualcomm filed in July with the U.S. International Trade Commission accusing Apple of illegally importing and selling iPhones “that infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions in iPhones.”

The fight between the two tech giants began in January when Apple filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm, contending the chipmaker insisted on onerous royalties for its technologies and demanded payments for technologies it didn’t develop, such as Apple’s Touch ID. Apple claimed in that suit that it “has been overcharged billions of dollars on Qualcomm’s illegal scheme,” although the suit seeks damages of just less than $1 billion.

Qualcomm filed a countersuit in April, claiming among other things that the iPhone vendor “breached” and “mischaracterized” agreements with the chipmaker and interfered in deals with Qualcomm licensees.

Apple returned fire in June, saying in a legal filing that evidence increasingly indicated Qualcomm’s business model is “illegal.” That complaint alleged that Qualcomm’s strategy “burdens innovation," and that some patents for which Qualcomm is demanding royalties are invalid.

More recently, a report surfaced in late October claiming Apple was looking to eschew Qualcomm chips in iPhones and iPads as early as next year. Qualcomm responded to that salvo a few days later when it claimed the iPhone vendor failed to comply with terms of a software licensing contract and had shared proprietary code with rival Intel.