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.

qualcomm iphone 7
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iPhones use that infringed on Qualcomm patents, but as FOSS Patents outlines in the handy infographic below, many are no longer valid.

qualcommfosspatents
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

Cosmosent Avatar
27 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)
idmean Avatar
27 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)
JPack Avatar
27 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)
Sasparilla Avatar
27 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)
Carnegie Avatar
27 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)
FloatingBones Avatar
27 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

2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
mac security privacy

Apple Takes Step to Prevent Further Spread of 'Silver Sparrow' Malware on Macs

Monday February 22, 2021 6:13 am PST by
Over the weekend, we reported on the second known piece of malware compiled to run natively on M1 Macs. Given the name "Silver Sparrow," the malicious package is said to leverage the macOS Installer JavaScript API to execute suspicious commands. After observing the malware for over a week, however, security firm Red Canary did not observe any final payload, so the exact threat to users remains a...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
whatsapp privacy banner

WhatsApp Reveals What Happens to Users Who Don't Agree to Upcoming Privacy Policy Changes

Sunday February 21, 2021 1:11 am PST by
WhatsApp has revealed how it will gradually limit the features available to accounts held by users who do not accept the platform's impending privacy policy changes, due to come into effect on May 15. WhatsApp's new banner explaining the privacy policy changes According to an email seen by TechCrunch to one of its merchant partners, WhatsApp said it will "slowly ask" users who have not yet...
new airpods leaked image 52audios

Alleged Leaked Image Claims to Show Third-Generation AirPods and Case

Sunday February 21, 2021 2:49 am PST by
A new image claims to offer our first real world look at Apple's next-generation AirPods. The image, shared by 52audio, showcases both AirPods and the charging case for what the site claims to be the third iteration of the wireless earbuds. 52audio has in the past shared images claiming to showcase different parts of the third-generation AirPods. Most notably, the site in November shared...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...
iPad Pro Mini LED

New iPad Pro and MacBook Models With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Taiwanese company Ennostar will begin production of Mini-LED backlight units for an upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the late first quarter or second quarter of this year, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. Ennostar is a holding company that was jointly established in January 2021 by LED-related manufacturers Epistar and Lextar Electronics. Apple is expected to unveil the new ...
14

iOS 14.5 to Make Zero-Click Attacks 'Significantly Harder'

Monday February 22, 2021 9:05 am PST by
Apple's impending iOS and iPadOS 14.5 update will make zero-click attacks considerably more difficult by extending PAC security provisions, according to Motherboard. Apple has made a change to the way in which it secures its code in the latest betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to make zero-click attacks much harder. The change, spotted by security researchers, has now been confirmed by...