Apple and Qualcomm have refused to budge in their fight over iPhone patent royalties, so they’re headed to court. A federal judge in San Diego has scheduled the companies’ trial for April 15th, 2019. Qualcomm had wanted a trial in February, but the judge determined that a delay was necessary due both to the court’s schedule as well as the complexity of the case. There had been rumors of a settlement, but Apple has repeatedly stressed that there are no ongoing talks and that the two sides haven’t met for “months.”
Apple has accused Qualcomm of double-dipping on patent royalties, charging both when Apple licensed the patent portfolio and again when it sold cellular chipsets. Qualcomm, meanwhile, has maintained that its patents venture beyond chipsets and that its licensing approach has been valid. It has gone so far as to threaten to block iPhone X sales, although that’s purely symbolic now that the phone has been discontinued.
The timing raises the potential for another lengthy patent battle similar to the seven-year conflict between Apple and Samsung. However, Apple may have an ally on its side. The FTC is set to go to trial against Qualcomm over antitrust issues on January 4th, and the eventual outcome of that case might influence the chip designer’s chances against Apple. If the FTC prevails, Qualcomm might have trouble convincing the San Diego court that its royalty practices are fair.
Earlier this week, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf made headlines when he said his company was “on the doorstep of a resolution” with Apple, implying a settlement was possible. Now, an Apple attorney is refuting that notion, saying the two companies “are going to need a trial.”
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Apple attorney William Isaacson told U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel this week that a trial will be necessary. This echoes a Reuters report from last month which claimed Apple had “no plans” to reach a settlement with Qualcomm.
Further, Judge Curiel has officially set a trial date for the case between Apple and Qualcomm. The trial will begin on April 15th in San Diego federal court. Qualcomm had originally pushed for a February trial, but Cruiel said an April date is needed to “accommodate the court’s schedule.”
It’s possible that Mollenkopf’s interview with CNBC earlier this week was just misconstrued, but now it’s seemingly clear that a settlement between Qualcomm and Apple is out of the question.
Throughout this legal battle, Mollenkopf has remained optimistic about the potential for a business relationship between Qualcomm and Apple – likely due to the disastrous effect losing Apple as a customer is having on Qualcomm’s financials. In the same CNBC interview this week, Mollenkopf said Qualcomm “would love to work with Apple” on 5G technologies, though other reports have indicated Apple is instead working with Intel.
The case centers around Apple’s accusation that Qualcomm is illegally taking a cut of each iPhone sold with Qualcomm’s modem technology inside. Further, Qualcomm alleges that Apple stole trade secrets and gave them to Intel. We should be in for quite the trial come April.