Thursday 20 December 2018 3:37 pm

Qualcomm triumphs against Apple in German iPhone hardware case

Follow Emily Nicolle
A court in Germany has ruled that Apple infringed a hardware patent owned by chipmaker Qualcomm in some of its iPhone models.

The judge said the US firm will not be able to sell some iPhone models in Germany containing an Intel chip from Apple supplier Qorvo, which violated one of Qualcomm's patents around so-called envelope tracking. The feature helps iPhones to save battery power while sending and receiving wireless signals.

Apple said it plans to appeal the decision, and as such, the sales ban will not go into immediate effect.

The case in Germany represented Qualcomm's third attempt to retain a ban on sales of Apple's iPhone, having pursued similar patent lawsuits in the US and China.

Qualcomm launched its lawsuit against Apple in Munich last summer, seeking both an injunction on iPhone sales as well as monetary damages.

In an attempt to dodge Qualcomm's suit in China regarding two software patents, Apple pushed out a software update to iPhones last week. A Chinese court had ruled that Apple must halt sales of iPhone 6S to X models, but the iPhone 7 and 8 remained for sale on the Apple China website on Tuesday.

"Qualcomm’s campaign is a desperate attempt to distract from the real issues between our companies," said Apple in a statement today. 

"Their tactics, in the courts and in their everyday business, are harming innovation and harming consumers. Qualcomm insists on charging exorbitant fees based on work they didn't do and they are being investigated by governments all around the world for their behaviour."

Intel's general counsel Steven Rodgers said in a statement today that Qualcomm's lawsuits are likely to force price hikes in the industry.

Qorvo's chief counsel Mike Baker said: "We believe our envelope tracking chip does not infringe the patent in suit, and the court would have come to a different conclusion if it had considered all the evidence.

"We're disappointed that the inventor and designer of our chip, who attended the hearing, wasn't given the opportunity to testify or present other evidence that disproves Qualcomm's claim of infringement. The International Trade Commission has already determined that our envelope tracker chip does not infringe the US counterpart to the patent at issue in this case."