Last Friday, a jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California awarded Qualcomm $31.6 million patent royalties based on the finding that Apple infringed three Qualcomm patents. This lawsuit marked Qualcomm’s first legal victory of US jury trial over its prolonged global dispute with Apple.
Comparing to the figure of about $265 billion in sales in fiscal 2018, $31.6 million is really a drop in the bucket for Apple. However, the “per-phone royalty rate” being recognized by the jury boosts Qualcomm’s confidence in contending that its licensing practices are fair.
After the jury verdict, Qualcomm’s statement tried to amplify the effect of the verdict by saying that “[they] are gratified that courts all over the world are rejecting Apple’s strategy of refusing to pay for the use of [their] IP.” In contrast, Apple attempted to divert the public attention to the antitrust investigations Qualcomm faces. Apple said, “Qualcomm’s ongoing campaign of patent infringement claims is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the larger issues they face with investigations into their business practices in U.S. federal court, and around the world.”
Apple has already been at a disadvantaged situation in Germany and China in this patent war against Qualcomm. In early December last year, an intermediate court in China issued injunctions against four Chinese subsidiaries of Apple on infringement of two Qualcomm patents. Under the China’s injunctions, Apple was ordered to cease the unlicensed imports and sales of several iPhone models in China. In Germany, a district court also ruled in favor of Qualcomm in an infringement claim, blocking the sales of some iPhone models.
The concluded jury trial last Friday is far from the end of the patent battle between the two companies. Next month, a much more important case concerning whether Qualcomm abused its “monopoly position” to impose “onerous” terms for patents is scheduled to start on April 15 in the Southern District Court of California. The result of the case may affect the landscape of chip market globally.