The action is part of a broader move by the fruity cargo cult to cut its margins by refusing to pay licensing fees on Qualcomm tech.
Last week, Qualcomm secured a preliminary victory in a patent lawsuit in China that would have banned sales of some Apple iPhones there. Apple later said it believed it was already in compliance but would change its software “to address any possible concern” about its compliance.
But Qualcomm was also handed a setback in an antitrust lawsuit brought against it by the US Federal Trade Commission when a judge said it would not be able to mention that Apple ditched Qualcomm chips for competing ones from Intel when the case goes to trial next month.
The group of contract manufacturers - which includes Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision, Pegatron, Wistron and Compal Electronics - became embroiled in the dispute between Apple and Qualcomm last year.
In the supply chain for electronics, contract manufacturers buy Qualcomm chips and pay royalties when they build phones and are in turn reimbursed by companies like Apple. Qualcomm sued the group last year, alleging they had stopped paying fees related to Apple products, and Apple joined their defence.
The contract manufacturers have since filed claims of their own against Qualcomm, claiming the San Diego company’s practice of charging money for chips but then also asking for a cut of the adjusted selling price of a mobile phone as a patent royalty payment constitutes an anticompetitive business practice.
They are seeking $9 billion in damages from Qualcomm for royalties they allege were illegal. That figure could triple if the manufacturers succeed on their antitrust claims.
Ted Boutrous, a high-profile partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who is representing the contract manufacturers, told Reuters that statements from Qualcomm executives suggesting there were meaningful settlement talks with the contract manufacturers were “false”.
“To the extent Qualcomm has indicated there have been licensing discussions with the contract manufacturers, they’ve made the same sort of unreasonable demands that got them to where they are right now, which impose significant preconditions even to discuss a new arrangement”, Boutrous said.
In July, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf told investors on the company’s quarterly earnings call that Qualcomm and Apple itself were in talks to resolve the litigation.
One of Apple’s attorneys disputed that notion, saying there had not been “talks in some months. So the parties are at loggerheads and are going ... to have to go into trial”.
Of course, there is no proof that Qualcomm is lying any more than there is evidence that Apple is telling the truth.