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Apple pushing update to iPhone in China in response to legal troubles

Apple has been facing legal issues in China, where sales of some iPhone models could be banned due to alleged infringements of patents from Qualcomm Inc. On Friday, Apple announced that it will push out a software update to users in China in hopes of resolving any potential legal issues around the iPhone.

The legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm has been heating up this month, based on a disagreement over the percentage of royalties that Apple should pay to Qualcomm for using their patents. The companies are suing each other in various countries, but it is in China that the biggest showdown is happening. After Qualcomm called for a ban of iPhones in China, telling Bloomberg that “Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them,” a Chinese court upheld the complaint and ordered a ban on the sales of some older iPhone models.

In response, Apple is updating their software which they plan to push out to Chinese iPhone users early next week. Even so, Apple denied any wrongdoing, telling Reuters, “Based on the iPhone models we offer today in China, we believe we are in compliance.” They said that the two patents in question formed only a “minor functionality” of the software and that the update would address their use.

Qualcomm don’t seem to be satisfied by this reaction from Apple. Qualcomm’s general counsel Don Rosenberg said that even with the proposed updates, “Apple continues to disregard and violate the Fuzhou court’s orders… They are legally obligated to immediately cease sales, offers for sale and importation of the devices identified in the orders, and to prove compliance in court.”

Even though the current legality of selling the older iPhone models in China is murky, in practice even with a court order it would take a long time for the patent laws to be sorted though and an actual ban on sales to be put in place. As of the time of writing, iPhones are still available to buy on the Apple China website including the iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 8, and iPhone 7. In addition, Apple is appealing to both Chinese manufacturers and customers, saying that a ban on sales in the country would hurt them all.

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