Qualcomm Raises Bond To Halt iPhone Sales In Germany

The bitter spat between Apple and Qualcomm has taken another twist after the later won an court order in late December, banning the sale of certain iPhone models in Germany.

The court order from the Munich District Court was issued on 20 December, and ruled that Apple had infringed Qualcomm patents on power-saving technology used in smartphones.

Apple is appealing the ruling, but in the meantime Qualcomm had this week posted security bonds totalling 1.34bn euros. Those bonds were required for Qualcomm to be able to enforce the court order in Germany.

Germany ban

Apple now has to comply with the order to cease the sale, offer for sale and importation for sale of all infringing iPhones in Germany.

The Court has also ordered (according to Qualcomm) Apple to recall infringing iPhones from third party resellers in Germany.

So what models are affected?

Well Reuters quoted Apple as saying that it would pull the iPhone 7 and 8 models from its own 15 retail stores in Germany during an appeal process – once the court order came into force (which it has now done).

However, Reuters also quoted Apple as saying that it would continue to offer all of its phones at thousands of retail and carrier locations across Germany, a direct contradiction to Qualcomm’s interpretation of the order.

Kai Ruting, a German lawyer not involved in the case, was quoted by Reuters as saying the court order was directed at Apple entities rather than third parties.

“These third parties are still free to sell the (affected) iPhones, and they sell the majority of iPhones,” Ruting reportedly said, adding, “the question of a settlement will be driven by the U.S. litigation and not the German case.”

Ruting also reportedly said that Apple had strong arguments for the German court’s ruling to be reversed on appeal. If that happens, Qualcomm’s bond will be used to compensate Apple, he said.

China ban

In December Qualcomm won a preliminary order from a Chinese court that banned a number of iPhone models, including the iPhone 6S right through to the iPhone X, due to due to alleged patent violations.

However, it should be noted that the Chinese import ban only applied to those iPhone handsets that were sold with older versions of Apple’s iOS operating system, and therefore Apple continues to sell iPhone’s in China after it pushed a software update to address concerns over whether it was in compliance with Chinese courts.

Qualcomm has said those software updates in China were insufficient and that Apple must still withdraw its phones.

Apple has filed a request for the Chinese court to reconsider its decision, but no decision has yet been made.

Bitter fight

It is fair to say that Qualcomm and Apple are locked in a bitter legal battle around the world. Last October Qualcomm said that Apple owed it $7bn (£5.5bn) in patent royalty payments for the use in its chip in iPhones.

Prior to that, Qualcomm accused Apple of stealing its technology in order to share it with rival chip makers, including Intel.

It alleged that Apple developed an “intricate plan” to steal proprietary information and share it with Intel and others over a period of several years, in order to cut its own costs.

Apple of course denies those allegations.

Apple has in turn accused Qualcomm of abusing its market dominance, saying the fees Qualcomm charges are unfair.

But the two remain locked in legal battles around the world.

Qualcomm last November sued Apple for allegedly violating the terms of the contract between the two companies, and has separately accused Apple of violating its patents.

It has also repeatedly sought to ban the importing of iPhones into the US.

Apple had historically relied on Qualcomm chips, but its bust up with the chip designer meant that it turned to Intel in recent years for its chipsets.

Apple this week has warned that quarterly revenues would be affected by a slowdown in the sales of its iPhone, mostly in the Chinese market.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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