China bans iPhone models from 6s to X in Qualcomm patents dispute

11 Dec 2018

Apple iPhone devices. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

Apple vows to fight ban as global patents war against Qualcomm hits China.

A court in China has banned the sales of a number of recent iPhone devices, citing the alleged infringement of two Qualcomm patents.

The ban, granted by the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court, follows a request for an injunction by Qualcomm. The case is part of a wider global legal dispute between Apple and Qualcomm.

‘We will pursue all our legal options through the courts’

However, enforcement of the ban of devices that range from the iPhone 6s up to last year’s iPhone X may be a distant threat. According to Apple, all of its smartphone models remain on sale in mainland China.

“Qualcomm’s effort to ban our products is another desperate move by a company whose illegal practices are under investigation by regulators around the world,” Apple said in a statement on Monday (10 December).

“All iPhone models remain available for our customers in China. Qualcomm is asserting three patents they had never raised before, including one which has already been invalidated. We will pursue all our legal options through the courts.”

It has also filed a request for reconsideration with the court in a case that could spiral all the way up to China’s supreme court.

Bitter legal war

Qualcomm alleges that there are patent violations on some features that let users reformat the size and appearance of photos, and manage applications on a touchscreen while navigating through phone apps.

The patents in question do not cover Apple’s latest operating system, which is installed on the latest XS, XS Max and XR models.

“Apple continues to benefit from our intellectual property while refusing to compensate us,” Qualcomm said in a statement. “These court orders are further confirmation of the strength of Qualcomm’s vast patent portfolio.”

The development is the latest twist in a legal battle that echoes a similar battle over patents between Apple and Samsung that lasted for seven long years.

In a legal salvo in September, Qualcomm alleged that Apple stole intellectual property (IP) and gave it to Intel, ostensibly so Intel could make lower-price chips for the iPhone. Intel modem chips are used in the new iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR smartphones.

Apple sued Qualcomm last year, claiming the latter was charging exorbitant royalties for what it claimed were unique Apple innovations. Qualcomm countersued, claiming that the iPhone’s success would not have been possible without its technology.

Apple iPhone devices. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years