Qualcomm's U.S. ITC Complaint Falling Apart as Apple Implements Workaround in iOS 12.1

Back in 2017, Qualcomm filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) accusing Apple's iPhones of infringing on six Qualcomm patents.

Qualcomm was hoping to ban imports of select iPhone and iPad models using Intel modems, but as it turns out, the company's efforts have been a poor use of time and money.


As outlined by FOSS Patents, in a recent filing with the ITC Apple said that it has implemented an iOS 12.1 workaround to one key patent in the complaint, U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490, which covers "power saving techniques in computing devices."

Apple said that it introduced changes in iOS 12.1 to make sure that it does not violate the '490 patent, though the company claims the original design wasn't in violation to begin with.

Qualcomm's own Chief Technology Officer has said that there are alternate design options to skirt the '490 patent, which Apple submits as evidence that the '490 patent should not be valid in the ITC complaint.

Qualcomm's presentation at the hearing crystallized its theories regarding the scope and coverage of claim 31 of the '490 patent. Against that backdrop, Apple recently changed its software (i.e., iOS) to remove the functionality that Qualcomm has accused of infringing claim 31, by implementing a design change that Qualcomm's own witnesses conceded would fall outside the scope of the patent. [...]

This fall, after the close of the hearing record, Apple implemented a new software-based design for its Accused '490 Products that removed the accused UL/DL synchronization feature that Qualcomm emphasized could be 'simply remove[d]' to avoid infringement of the '490 patent. To be clear, the pre-change versions also do not infringe the '490 patent, and thus there is no legal need to 'design around' it. But to moot any possible allegation of infringement from Qualcomm, Apple changed its products to do precisely what Qualcomm's own witnesses testified would not infringe the '490 patent."

According to FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller, given Qualcomm's prior comments about the ease of implementing a suitable workaround, Qualcomm won't be able to credibly dispute Apple's plan.

Qualcomm's original ITC complaint against Apple mentioned "six inventions" iPhones use that infringed on Qualcomm patents, but as FOSS Patents outlines in the handy infographic below, many are no longer valid.


Qualcomm has dropped three of the six patents, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the case said that Apple did not infringe on another two, and as for the last, it's the one that Apple added a workaround for in iOS 12.1.

Given the weakness of Qualcomm's complaint, the company is not likely to win its case, and even if it does, it won't cover Apple's iPhones that have the iOS 12.1 software update.

Apple and Qualcomm will go to trial over the original dispute in April, with Qualcomm having been unable to establish leverage over Apple thus far with its U.S. ITC complaints. Apple and Qualcomm will be fighting over royalty payments and anticompetitive patent licensing practices.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
21 months ago
Anybody who has ever worked on OR reviewed Patent Apps knows full-well that ALOT of patent apps get approved that should NOT.

And for those that do, ~50% are fairly-easily worked around.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago

So it's fine to infringe on patents, sell the devices and software, and then quickly do a workaround when caught?

Apple said that it introduced changes in iOS 12.1 to make sure that it does not violate the '490 patent, though the company claims the original design wasn't in violation to begin with.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
So it's fine to infringe on patents, sell the devices and software, and then quickly do a workaround when caught?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago
Just saw another article detailing how Google is adding to its chipmaking expertise with new hiring. Because of its lack of vision (smartphone CPU's - sitting on its only CPU for 3 years) and how unpleasant a company it is to deal with - Qualcomm will be lucky to exist in the smartphone CPU market in 5 years (Samsung and Huawei already make their own CPU's, throw out a Google smartphone CPU for the general market and it'll be game over for Qualcomm).
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago

So it's fine to infringe on patents, sell the devices and software, and then quickly do a workaround when caught?

Apple was only found (by an administrative law judge) to have infringed one out of the six patents originally asserted. And the ITC decided to review that infringement finding, so it may not have stood anyway.

That said, not all infringement is knowing or intentional. Even if Apple was actually infringing one of the patents, it might not have realized that it was doing so. It might not have been aware of the possibility or it might have reasonably believed it didn't infringe. Given that it was able to work around the patent it allegedly infringed, there's a good chance it previously didn't think it was infringing.

Anyway, here's one of the problems with what Qualcomm did in the past. (I don't know whether it's relevant with regard to the patents at issue here, but it could be.) One of the things Qualcomm used to do (as alleged by parties other than Apple and as found by regulatory bodies) is refuse to tell licensees which patents they were licensing. It wouldn't tell them what they were paying for. So a company like Apple might not be aware that something it was doing would, if it effectively stopped making royalty payments, be infringing Qualcomm patents.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
21 months ago


This was invalidated.

My point was valid. The "method of moving on a swing ('https://patents.google.com/patent/US6368227B1/en')" should never have been approved in the first place -- as it was done in April of 2002. Claims were only invalidated after the media had a field day with this. Someone was asleep at the wheel -- or maybe snoozing on a swing.

The US patent system is patently broken.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Apple Releases Safari 14 for Mac Ahead of macOS Big Sur Launch

Wednesday September 16, 2020 1:40 pm PDT by
macOS Big Sur didn't launch alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 today, with the update coming later this fall, but Apple did release the Safari 14 update for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users. Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

iOS 14 Picture in Picture No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website in Safari [Without Premium]

Friday September 18, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. When Picture in Picture was working with YouTube The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched...

Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Friday September 18, 2020 1:19 pm PDT by
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch. Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE Hands-On! When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like...

iOS 14.2 Beta Adds New Shazam Music Recognition Feature for Control Center

Thursday September 17, 2020 3:36 pm PDT by
Apple today released the first beta of iOS 14.2 to developers for testing purposes, and the new update introduces a Music Recognition control for the Control Center. The new feature lets you discover music playing around you and it recognizes the music playing with in apps, even when you're wearing AirPods. Songs pop up as notifications, and you can tap to listen in Apple Music....

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Apple Releases watchOS 7 With New Watch Faces, Family Setup, Sleep Tracking, Handwashing Help and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:47 pm PDT by
Apple today released watchOS 7, the newest version of the watchOS operating system designed to run on modern Apple Watch models. The watchOS 7 update comes after several months of beta testing. ‌watchOS 7‌ can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General > Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at...