Qualcomm Accuses Apple Of Stealing Secret Tech

Qualcomm, the dominant provider of mobile chips, has accused Apple of stealing its technology in order to share it with rival chip makers, including Intel.

In a new filing, Qualcomm alleges 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 had the aim of improving the performance of rivals’ chips so that it could use those processors instead of chips from Qualcomm, the complaint says.

Apple engineers allegedly supplied Intel staff with confidential Qualcomm source code in spite of a contract restricting Apple’s access to the technology, the filing says.

‘Unjust’ profits

The plan has caused Qualcomm to lose profits while “unjustly” adding to those of Apple, according to the complaint.

The filing in a court in San Diego County, where Qualcomm’s headquarters are located, expands on a previous Qualcomm lawsuit against Apple and is part of a broader dispute between the two companies.

That dispute, in turn, takes place against a backdrop of Qualcomm’s dominance of the market for mobile phone chips, which sees it supplying processors for most high-end smartphones.

Qualcomm’s market power has attracted the scrutiny of regulators and is also at the heart of the legal entanglement between Qualcomm and the iPhone maker.

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

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.

Apple previously used Qualcomm’s chips for the modems in its iPhones, but beginning with the iPhone 7 began using Intel modem chips.

Intel switch

Qualcomm told investors in July it believed its modem chips were not used at all in the latest generation of iPhones, announced earlier this month, and thus far teardowns have found only Intel modem chips.

The switch to Intel was part of Apple’s plan all along, Qualcomm said in its new filing, calling it a “multi-year campaign of sloppy, inappropriate and deceitful conduct” aimed at “improving lower-quality modem chipsets… to render such chipsets useable in Apple devices with the ultimate goal of diverting Qualcomm’s Apple-based business to Intel”.

Apple declined to comment, instead making reference to a statement issued in June of last year, in which it said Qualcomm’s licensing fees were based on a percentage of the total cost of its products, “effectively taxing Apple’s innovation”.

“We shouldn’t have to pay them for technology breakthroughs they have nothing to do with,” Apple said at the time. “We’ve always been willing to pay a fair rate for standard technology used in our products and since they’ve refused to negotiate reasonable terms we’re asking the courts for help.”

Intel, which was not named in the filing, declined to comment.

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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