Jury rules Apple owes Qualcomm $31M for patent infringement

SAN DIEGO — A jury has decided Apple should pay $31 million in damages for infringing on patents for technology owned by mobile chip maker Qualcomm that helps iPhones quickly connect to the internet and extend their battery life.

The verdict Friday in a San Diego federal court follows a two-week trial that pitted two former allies that have become bitter adversaries. The trial is a fragment of a legal battle involving Apple and Qualcomm, which are sparing over who invented some of the technology used for key features in smartphones and other mobile devices.

The stakes will be much larger in another federal trial next month that will determine whether Apple should be required to pay Qualcomm for licensing other technology used in iPhones.

Apple had been paying the licensing fees until it stopped in 2017 and filed a lawsuit alleging that Qualcomm was abusing his dominance of the mobile chip market to gouge smartphone makers for technology that it hadn’t even invented. That trial is scheduled to start April 15.

In the trial that just concluded, the jury unanimously agreed with Qualcomm’s contention that it should be paid $1.41 per iPhone relying on three of its patents. The damages date back to July 6, 2017, when Qualcomm filed its lawsuit, and covers technology used in the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

San Diego-based Qualcomm hailed the verdict as a validation of its technology’s importance to iPhones. “The technologies invented by Qualcomm and others are what made it possible for Apple to enter the market and become so successful so quickly,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s general counsel.

Apple expressed disappointment with the decision. “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 US federal court, and around the world,” the Cupertino, California, company said.

The dispute between Apple and Qualcomm is also part of an antitrust lawsuit that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed in 2017. In that case, the FTC alleges that Qualcomm had been abusing its market power in mobile chips for years. The trial concluded in San Jose, California, earlier this year, but the judge still hasn’t ruled.

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