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Qualcomm accuses Apple of infringing on six patents in iPhone, iPad

Qualcomm’s logo is seen during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2017. (Eric Gaillard/REUTERS)

Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc will ask the U.S. International Trade Commission to bar Apple Inc from selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States that use chips made by competitor Intel Corp on the grounds that the devices infringe on six Qualcomm patents.

In a request that would broaden its legal battle with Apple, San Diego-based Qualcomm said it will ask the U.S. ITC to ban imports of the infringing Apple devices. A related lawsuit was filed in federal court in California on Thursday to request monetary damages.

Qualcomm, which also supplies chips to Apple, said the six patents help devices perform well without draining the battery.

Apple referred reporters to its earlier comments on the dispute with Qualcomm, which accuse Qualcomm of unfairly imposing what Apple calls a ‘tax’ on Apple devices using Qualcomm chips. Intel declined comment.

There has been long-running tension between Qualcomm and Apple over Qualcomm’s practice of taking a cut of the total price of the phone in exchange for “modem” chips that help phones use wireless networks data plans.

The ITC is a popular venue for patent disputes because it handles cases relatively quickly and can more easily bar an infringing product from the U.S. market than federal courts.

Animosity between the two companies burst into the open in January, when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm and accused it of using “anticompetitive” tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones.

The FTC, which enforces antitrust law along with the Justice Department, said that Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain chips to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors.

Days later, Apple sued Qualcomm for $1-billion, accusing it of overcharging for chips and withholding promised rebates because of Apple’s discussions with South Korea’s antitrust regulators in their probe of Qualcomm.

Separately from this dispute, Qualcomm is a major supplier to both Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd for modem chips that connect phones to wireless networks. The two companies together accounted for 40 per cent of Qualcomm’s $23.5-billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year.

Qualcomm has faced a series of antitrust rulings across the globe.

South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined Qualcomm Inc 1.03 trillion won ($854-million) in December for what it called unfair patent licensing.

In February 2015, Qualcomm paid a $975-million fine in China following a 14-month probe, while the European Union in December 2015 accused it of abusing its market power to thwart rivals.