Apple has once again started selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in Germany after a court invoked temporary injunction on sales of those two models. On Thursday, Apple announced that it will resume sales of older iPhone models in its stores in Germany after Qualcomm won a patent infringement ruling there leading to a ban last year. The Cupertino-based iPhone maker tried software-based workaround to circumvent the ban but has now caved in to the ruling. Apple said that iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 will be sold in Germany only with chips from Qualcomm as opposed to other markets where it uses a mix of Qualcomm and Intel chipsets.
Apple and Qualcomm are engaged in a legal battle around the world where the iPhone maker has accused the San Diego-based chip maker of abusing its market power and charging extensively for patent license deal. Qualcomm, on the other hand, claims that it is only charging for the technology it has developed, some of which are indispensable for mobile telephony. Qualcomm has been sued by FTC on behalf of tech companies and the trial ended on January 29, 2019 where Apple executive confirmed that Qualcomm was sole supplier for 4G modem because no other vendor matched specifications. Judge Lucy Koh is expected to deliver a verdict in that case sometime this month or early next month.
Ahead of that important verdict, Qualcomm seems to be raking up smaller wins against Apple around the world. Qualcomm also won a ban on sales of select iPhone models in China last year. The verdict of these case will weigh large when Apple and Qualcomm go head-to-head in San Diego in April in a separate case brought by the chip maker. According to Reuters, Apple said that it has “no choice” but to stop using chips from Intel on iPhones in order to comply with German court’s ruling on the patent infringement case.
Qualcomm is the world’s biggest supplier of mobile chips in the world and a de facto leader in 3G, 4G and 5G technologies. It sued Apple in Germany last year alleging that some iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models violated its patents around a tech called envelope tracking, the feature that helps mobile devices save battery life while sending and receiving wireless signals. The Intel chips were not found to be at fault but that of another Apple supplier. Qorvo Inc, which was used only on models with Intel modems.
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The court found some iPhone models infringed Qualcomm patents and forced Apple to pull those devices from its 15 retail stores and online stores in Germany. Apple has accused Qualcomm of protecting its monopoly on modem chip market by practicing illegal patent license deal. The relationship between Apple and Qualcomm had been on a downfall since 2016 when the iPhone maker switched to a mix of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.
In 2018, when Apple launched the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, it switched completely to Intel modems, even though they are inferior in terms of performance. “Qualcomm is attempting to use injunctions against our products to try to get Apple to succumb to their extortionist demands,” Apple said in a statement to Reuters. This tech battle between Apple and Qualcomm has been unfolding amidst reports that the two companies are negotiating for a settlement.