A German court ruled on Thursday that iPhone maker Apple Inc infringed a hardware patent of Qualcomm Inc and said the US company could no longer sell some iPhone models in Germany which contain a particular component. The ruling will not go into immediate effect if Apple appeals, judge Matthias Zigann told the court. Qualcomm needs to post a bond of 668.4 million euros, or $765 million, before it can begin proceedings to enforce the order, the court said in a news release after the hearing.
The ruling affects iPhone 7 through iPhone X models, the court said in its statement. The German case is Qualcomm’s third major effort to secure a ban on Apple’s lucrative iPhones over patent infringement allegations after similar efforts in the United States and China. In Germany, Qualcomm is seeking a ban on some iPhones with chips from Intel Corp. The judge ruled that phones that contain a chip from Apple supplier Qorvo Inc violated one of Qualcomm’s patents around so-called envelope tracking, a feature that helps mobile phones save battery power while sending and receiving wireless signals.
“Competition authorities around the world have repeatedly found Qualcomm’s licensing practices unlawful, yet Qualcomm continues to try to achieve the same results through a campaign of patent lawsuits. These lawsuits have been largely unsuccessful, and at best would reduce innovation and raise prices,” Steven Rodgers, Intel’s general counsel, said in a statement. Mike Baker, Qorvo’s chief intellectual property counsel, said in a statement that US trade regulators had ruled that Qorvo’s chips did not violate the US version of Qualcomm’s patent and that the chip’s inventor wasn’t allowed to testify at the German hearing.
“We believe our envelope tracking chip does not infringe the patent in suit, and the court would have come to a different conclusion if it had considered all the evidence,” Baker said. Apple and Qualcomm were not immediately available for comment. Qualcomm sued Apple in the regional court in Munich in July last year, seeking an injunction to halt some iPhone sales in Germany as well as monetary damages.
The case is part of a broader court conflict between the two, in which Apple has alleged that Qualcomm engaged in anticompetitive business practices to protect a monopoly on so-called modem chips, which help mobile phones connect to wireless data networks. The US Federal Trade Commission has also sued Qualcomm over its business practices in a case set to go to trial in California next month. Qualcomm has alleged in courts around the world that Apple violated its patents and has sought bans on iPhone sales in the United States and China.
US regulators found Apple infringed one Qualcomm patent but have so far recommended against banning some iPhone sales, but a Chinese court issued a sales ban on some iPhones earlier this month. Apple said its phones remain on sale and that it believes it has complied with the Chinese court’s order, but it also made changes to its iPhone software in the wake of the ruling.