Apple under ITC investigation over Qualcomm patent claims

James Pearce
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Chip-maker Qualcomm has called on the US International Trade Commission to block sales of certain iPhone models, claiming they breach its patents

The United States International Trade Commission has launched an investigation into Apple’s trade practices following a complaint from chipmaker Qualcomm.

In the latest twist in a legal battle between the two partners, Qualcomm has accused Apple of infringing on up to six of its patents, requesting the ITC introduce an order barring importation of electronic devices including the iPhone and iPad.

The ITC will investigate whether Apple engaged in unfair trade practices by importing and selling mobile devices that infringed on Qualcomm’s patents – notably iPhones with chips made by rival Intel. It will come up with a target date to complete the investigation within the next 45 days. 

The investigation will look at "certain mobile electronic devices and radio frequency and processing components thereof," the ITC said.  

Qualcomm has not alleged that Intel chips violate its patents but says the way Apple uses them in the iPhone does.

“Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC's decision to investigate Apple’s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm’s patents,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm. 

“We look forward to the ITC’s expeditious investigation of Apple’s ongoing infringement of our intellectual property and the accelerated relief that the Commission can provide.”

Earlier this year, Apple filed suit against Qualcomm for $1 billion, alleging onerous and anti-competitive patent royalty contract terms that forced Apple to only use Qualcomm chips. Qualcomm counter-sued, accusing Apple of intentionally slowing down its chips in speed tests to cover up slower performance from Intel-powered devices.

Apple said in a statement: “Qualcomm's illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry. They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products - effectively taxing Apple's innovation."