During the roughly two years Apple was locked in a legal battle with one of its suppliers, Qualcomm, the iPhone maker publicly argued that the chip maker’s technology was worthless.
But according to an internal Apple memo Qualcomm showed during the trial this week between the two tech companies, Apple’s hardware executives used words like “the best” to describe Qualcomm’s engineering.
On Tuesday, Apple lawyer Ruffin Cordell used comparatively inexpensive patent licenses Apple had signed with companies like Ericsson and Huawei to show how Qualcomm was price gouging. In court, Cordell said a group of those patents was twice the size of Qualcomm’s but had cost Apple a fraction of the cost. “Does that make any sense? Is that fair and reasonable?” he asked the jury.
But then Qualcom presents THIS:
There was more to the story, though. In one internal document cited by Qualcomm’s lawyers, Apple said it sought to “create evidence” by scrupulously licensing other less expensive patents to make Qualcomm’s look expensive. According to the documents, Apple said it would “selectively filter” a group of patent licenses for “the most desirable deals,” using the patents as “evidence as a comparable in disputes with others.” Qualcomm lawyer Evan Chesler alleged the “others” referred to Qualcomm. Apple declined to comment on the documents and allegation.
Qualcomm essentially had evidence that Apple was intentionally trying to create a misleading case… which Apple had just presented in court, as part of that trial.
Imagine being the Apple lawyer at that moment in court.
Much of the case against Qualcomm has been exactly about how they’ve been using their superior baseband chips as leverage in their other businesses (mediocre SOCs, patent licensing). There’s nothing contradictory about arguing that Qualcomm’s patent license fees are unreasonable compared to the quality and quantity of patents, and simultaneously that their modem hardware is the best. But the article presents this as some huge gotcha.
It seems that there’s a reasonable chance that the resolution of this case is actually just another example of the same pattern: with Intel leaving the market, there are no other vendors available for 5G. (Samsung won’t sell to them, Huawei would be politically unacceptable). Apple had to settle regardless of the merits, or risk missing the boat on 5G.
This article was hot garbage in other aspects, so I don’t trust their paraphrasing on this issue. (Do you happen to have a link to a primary source?). Qualcomm have been getting a far higher fees than the competitors with portfolios of similar quality:
It’s a long-standing pattern across the industry, not something that only happened with Apple a couple of years ago. So unless all of these companies were striking deals at artificially low prices with the intention of suing Qualcomm, I just don’t see anything nefarious there.
(Note: If every patent holder was charging fees at the level that Qualcomm asks for, the fees would account for a third of phone’s cost.)
First Imagination, then Qualcomm. I suspect ARM will be next in the royality-screwing. They’ll claim the same thing as with Imagination “Oh it’s all completely new, and not at all based on the thing we were using last week and have been licencing for the past 15 years, and not involved all of the lead engineers we just poached from your company.”