Qualcomm suit claims Apple breached contract, shared proprietary info with Intel

Qualcomm's lawsuit is the latest salvo in a major legal battle with Apple.

Qualcomm fired the latest salvo in its massive legal battle with Apple, claiming in a California lawsuit that the iPhone vendor failed to comply with terms of a software licensing contract and shared proprietary code with rival Intel.

The dominant chipmaker filed a lawsuit in a California state court claiming Apple broke a contract when it emailed Qualcomm asking for “highly confidential” information about how its chips work in devices that run an unnamed carrier’s network. An Intel engineer was allegedly copied on the email, according to Bloomberg, which was the first to report on the lawsuit.

Apple began using some Intel chips in the iPhone 7 in an effort to diversify its supply chain. That move was widely seen as a major blow to Qualcomm, which had been the exclusive chip supplier for iPhones and iPads.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that Apple has been looking to eschew Qualcomm’s chips in its iPhones and iPads, perhaps ditching Qualcomm’s products entirely. That decision has yet to be finalized, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this year, Apple filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm, contending the chipmaker insists on onerous royalties for its technologies and demands 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.

In July, Qualcomm asked U.S. trade authorities to block imports of some iPhones and iPads, escalating a massive battle over patent royalties that began in January. The chipmaker filed a suit with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) 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 company also filed a second complaint asking the ITC to halt Apple’s importations of phones and tablets that don’t include Qualcomm’s components.