Experts see negotiated settlement in 'typical industry tactic'
U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc filed a lawsuit in September in China seeking to block the manufacture and sale of Apple Inc's iPhones in the country, media reports said over the weekend.
Experts noted that Qualcomm resorted to legal measures to put pressure on Apple in a bid to bring Apple back to negotiations about patents.
Qualcomm filed the lawsuit in Beijing Intellectual Property Court on September 29, claiming that Apple violated three patents, none of which are essential to any industry standards, Bloomberg reported on Saturday.
The court said in a statement on its WeChat official account on Thursday that it had accepted Apple's lawsuit against Qualcomm, with Apple insisting no infringement of patent rights.
"Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them," a Qualcomm spokesperson was quoted as saying in Bloomberg report. Those patents are said to cover power management and the iPhone's Force Touch feature.
"Apple believes in the value of innovation and has always been willing to pay fair and reasonable fee for patents we use," a PR representative of Apple told the Global Times on Sunday.
"In many years of ongoing negotiations with Qualcomm, these patents have never been discussed and were only granted in the last few months," she said.
"Regulators around the world have found Qualcomm guilty of abusing their position for years. This claim is meritless and, like their other courtroom maneuvers, we believe this latest legal effort will fail."
Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that the lawsuit didn't come out of nowhere as Qualcomm and Apple have long been close partners as well as competitors. Telecommunications chips produced by Qualcomm are used in Apple's iPhone products and Apple also paid Qualcomm for that, according to Li.
"Indeed, Qualcomm resorted to lawsuits to impose pressure on Apple, with the aim of bringing Apple back to negotiations about patents," Li told the Global Times on Sunday.
In recent years, technology companies such as Qualcomm, Apple, Google and Samsung have faced many lawsuits as they all seek to hobble their rivals, Liu Dingding, an independent technology analyst, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"It is a kind of a 'convention' for those global technology titans," Liu said, noting that "almost each such company has a professional legal team, which is a strategic department, to handle [those legal affairs]."
Li noted that Qualcomm was involved in antitrust probes around the world in the past few years, and since last year, the company began to suspect that it had been betrayed by Apple, which is a driving force in pushing antitrust probes against Qualcomm.
South Korea's antitrust regulator slapped a record 1.03 trillion won (3 million) fine on Qualcomm in December 2016.
In February 2015, Qualcomm was fined 5 million, the largest amount in China's corporate history, by the National Development and Reform Commission, after the top economic planner found that the U.S. chipmaker violated China's antitrust law.
Lawsuits will become increasingly common in the technology sector around the world and Apple and Qualcomm may meet in court yet again, according to Liu.
Qualcomm's suit will have little impact on Apple and will likely end in a negotiated settlement of some kind; otherwise, a court case could drag on indefinitely, forecast Liu.
Neither sales nor production of iPhones will be halted in the Chinese market, Liu predicted.
Apple unveiled its latest smartphones, including iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, on September 13.
On Saturday, 46,500 units of the iPhone X were shipped from Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province, to the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates, according to the Xinhua News Agency.