Qualcomm Sues To Broaden iPhone Sales Block In China

Qualcomm is suing in China to block sales of Apple’s most up-to-date iPhone models, the XS and XR devices, in the country after winning a court victory last month.

A Fuzhou court on 30 November granted Qualcomm an injunction that, in theory, blocked sales of certain iPhone models in China.

Apple claimed the injunction only affected models running the older iOS 11, which it updated in September, and not the lateest iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR devices.

The injunction, which was made public on Tuesday, is based on Qualcomm’s claims that Apple devices infringe its patents related to photo manipulation and touchscreen apps.

Legal spat

A lawyer representing Qualcomm said the company was using the same patents to extend the sales block to the latest iPhone models.

“We plan to use the same patents to file suit against the three new iPhone models,” Jiang Hongyi of Lexfield Law Offices told the Financial Times.

The dispute is part of a wide-ranging conflict between the two companies that involves dozens of cases.

Qualcomm is fighting back against Apple’s claims that it overcharged for its royalties and abused its dominant market position in mobile intellectual property by asserting more than 20 patents against Apple in China.

By putting pressure on Apple in the key Chinese market, Qualcomm hopes to force the iPhone maker to negotiate a settlement.

Apple said on Tuesday the injunction would have no effect on its sales in China.

“All iPhone models remain available for our customers in China,” the company said, adding that it had already appealed the decision.

Public image at stake

While injunctions such as the one ordered in Fuzhou are typically not enforced with great vigor, legal analysts said it could be awkward for Apple to be put in the position of openly flouting the law.

A lawyer who formerly represented Qualcomm told the FT that the injunction could damage Apple’s standing with Chinese public opinion and the Chinese government, creating difficulties for it down the road.

Qualcomm met with similar difficulties in its handling of an antitrust investigation in China in 2013.

Qualcomm, the dominant chipmaker for smartphones, has made much of its close relationships with Chinese handset makers such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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