Qualcomm aims to halt Apple's iPhone sales and production
Qualcomm has filed lawsuits in Beijing's intellectual property court against Apple, alleging the iPhone maker infringed on the San Diego-based firm's patents. If Qualcomm is successful, Apple could be barred from manufacturing or selling some iPhones in China.
Globally, Apple and Qualcomm are involved in multiple lawsuits, but the China case is especially important as Apple produces the majority of its iPhones in the PRC.
If Qualcomm's request for an injunction is granted there would be "a worldwide injunction that would block (Apple) exports from China,” Erick Robinson, director of patent litigation for Beijing East IP, told Reuters in an interview.
Christine Trimble, a spokeswoman for Qualcomm, told Reuters the injunction would cover the iPhone 7. Among the patents are power savings technologies and Apple’s Force Touch feature. “The patents we’re asserting in these complaints are non-cellular wireless technologies that Apple uses in its iPhones,” she told Reuters, adding that those patents "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple is using without paying Qualcomm."
Apple responded by saying that it pays "fair reasonable rates" for the patents it uses, adding that Qualcomm's claims are "meritless."
It won't be easy for Qualcomm to get an injunction request granted, experts say. The Reuters article notes that injunction requests are not especially effective in patent litigations as products involved in the suit are often dated by the time a court makes a ruling while defendants introduce new models that don't make use of disputed patents.
On the other hand, plaintiffs tend to be victorious in Beijing's IP Court. In a September report, the Beijing IP Court noted that plaintiffs won 116 of 142 judgments in the period from November 2014 to June 2017. The success rates of Chinese and foreign plaintiffs were quite similar: Chinese plaintiffs won 106 of 129 cases (82%) while foreign plaintiffs were victorious in 10 out of 13 cases (77%).
"Previous studies of Chinese patent litigation have found foreign parties performing at least as well as domestic ones, and these numbers confirm that Chinese and non-Chinese rights owners are getting broadly similar results in the Beijing IP Court," notes IAM Media in a September post.
To fight back against Qualcomm's lawsuits, Apple may try to get the patents in question invalidated by the Chinese patent office, lawyers told Reuters. While that decision was being made, Apple could also ask the Beijing IP Court to hold up the patent cases. Before any injunction, the cases would go through a series of hearings.
Mike Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Inc, told Bloomberg there's almost no precedent for a Chinese court granting an injunction at the behest of a U.S. firm. Further, from the standpoint of the Chinese authorities, halting iPhone production holds no benefits; rather it would cause Apple's suppliers to lay off workers in droves - which is exactly the type of scenario Beijing does not want.