The latest chapter in the ongoing and messy Apple versus Qualcomm legal battle involves a U.S. trade judge that has found Apple guilty of infringing on two Qualcomm patents related to power management and data download speeds. As a result, the judge — International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara — say some iPhone models containing competing Intel modems might be blocked from shipping from China, where they’re manufactured, to the U.S.
The judgement is still pending review by the International Trade Commission (ITC). And it’s quite possible that, on review, things could change. In a separate ITC ruling just earlier this week, Qualcomm lost another opportunity for an iPhone ban after an initial finding of patent infringement was rejected by the commission.
Regardless, McNamara’s recommendation for a ban is a blow to Apple, which, earlier this month, was found having infringed on three separate Qualcomm patents in one of many other legal clashes between the two tech companies. Qualcomm is hoping for a victory, particularly an import ban, which could give it greater leverage in technology licensing negotiations.
The original complaint in the McNamara case linked the above patent only to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but it was unclear which models would be affected by this decision. If the ban only applies to those models, it could have a multibillion-dollar impact on Apple for each year that it still offers those devices. Should this be the case, the company will likely discontinue the affected devices within the next two years.
In a separate case, another patent infringement announcement targeted a broader range of iPhones, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and any other model containing Intel chips. Models that had Qualcomm chips wouldn’t be affected. The commission’s full decision, which sidestepped arguments for now over whether the legal battle between the two tech titans has broader implications for the U.S. supremacy in the fifth generation of telecommunications, isn’t yet public.