Qualcomm is seeking the ban in hopes of dealing Apple a blow before the two begin a significant trial in mid-April in San Diego over Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices. Qualcomm has sought to apply pressure to Apple with smaller legal challenges ahead of that trial and has won partial iPhone sales bans in China and Germany against Apple, forcing the iPhone maker to ship only phones with Qualcomm chips to some markets.
Apple claims that it has come up with a software fix to avoid infringing on one of Qualcomm’s patents and has asked regulators to give it as much as six months to prove that the fix works. But given it is Apple and its brilliant software teams have had a few issues lately we would not recommend anyone holds her or his breath.
Qualcomm brought a case against Apple at the US International Trade Commission in 2017 alleging that some iPhones violated Qualcomm patents to help smartphones run well without draining their batteries. Qualcomm asked for an import ban on some older iPhone models containing Intel chips.
In September, Thomas Pender, an administrative law judge at the ITC, found that Apple violated one of the patents in the case but declined to issue a ban. Pender reasoned that imposing a ban on Intel-chipped iPhones would hand Qualcomm an effective monopoly on the US market for modem chips.
Pender’s ruling said that preserving competition in the modem chip market was in the public interest as speedier 5G networks come online in the next few years.
However, it is rare that the ITC finds patent violations but does not ban the import of products. In December, the full ITC said it would review Pender’s decision and decide whether to uphold or reverse it by late March.
In a filing late on Friday, Qualcomm argued that Apple’s disclosure of a fix undermined the reasoning in Pender’s decision and that the Intel-chipped phones should be banned while Apple deploys its fix.
“Pender recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the (Qualcomm) patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible”, Qualcomm wrote.
“Apple now admits—more than seven months after the hearing—that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”