Apple’s attempt to invalidate two of Qualcomm’s smartphone patents has probably finally failed. The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Apple in the case as the underlying dispute between the two tech giants was settled globally. This is reported by the Reuters news agency.
The judges dismissed Apple’s appeal against a lower court’s decision. This had ruled that the company was not authorized to pursue the matter based on the agreement. Apple had argued that the appeal should be allowed because Qualcomm could sue again after the settlement expired.
Worldwide patent and trademark dispute
Qualcomm sued Apple in federal court in San Diego in 2017, alleging that the company’s iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches infringe a number of Qualcomm patents related to wireless technology. This case was part of a broader global patent and trademark litigation between the corporations. Apple then challenged the validity of the two patents in question before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the US Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals committee.
Both sides settled their dispute in 2019 and signed an agreement allowing Apple to continue using Qualcomm chips in iPhones. Apple has agreed to pay Qualcomm billions of dollars and patent fees for at least six years. However, the agreement allowed the proceedings before the US patent authority to continue.
They decided in favor of Qualcomm. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent law, dismissed Apple’s appeal based on the settlement last year. The court rejected Apple’s contention that paying royalties and the risk of being sued again warranted a hearing of the case on its merits. The Supreme Court followed this reasoning.
Apple argued that even after the agreement expires in 2025, or in 2027 if the term of the settlement is extended, it still faces litigation. Qualcomm has sued once before, has not “denied its intention to do so again” and has a “history of aggressively enforcing its patents,” Apple said.
No final end to the dispute in sight
In another matter, the patent litigation was partially resumed in early February. At that time, Qualcomm achieved before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that a smartphone chip patent that Apple had declared invalid was re-examined by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. It is unclear what effect a reversal of the invalidation would have on the existing comparison between Qualcomm and Apple.
The decision now made by the US Supreme Court is the second legal success for Qualcomm in a short period of time. Just a few days ago, the European Union Court (EuG) overturned a billion-euro fine for Qualcomm. There were procedural errors. The EU Commission had accused the US company of violating competition rules. She took it for granted that Qualcomm paid Apple $2357902 billion to keep the iPhone maker from buying from competitors like Intel.
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