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Judge recommends U.S. iPhone import ban for infringing on Qualcomm patents

The dispute between Apple and Qualcomm rages on. A U.S. judge in the International Trade Commission has ruled that Apple infringed on a Qualcomm-owned patent and as a result, recommended an import ban on some iPhone models. The judge did not find that Apple infringed on two other Qualcomm patents.

The ban won’t immediately go into effect and won’t affect new iPhone models like the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. The decision will be reviewed by the full ITC before it will need to be acted on. A final decision is expected by July.

The news comes just a few weeks after a jury in San Diego found Apple guilty of infringing on three Qualcomm-owned patents in the iPhone. The jury awarded Qualcomm $31 million in the case, which is the full amount that the company was seeking from Apple after Apple won a ruling that limited the potential payout. That lawsuit was first filed against Apple in 2017, and involved three patents. The first relates to battery efficiency when it comes to processing graphics. The second has to do with how phones quickly connect to the internet after they’re turned on. The third and final patent has to do with managing data traffic in a way that allows apps to download data quicker.

It’s not just older phones that use the tech. Qualcomm claims that the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, and X all infringe on the patents — though it seems as though Apple has stopped using the disputed tech in its most recent smartphones.

The $31 million in damages equates to $1.41 per iPhone that infringes on patents, and while that amount is spare change for Apple and Qualcomm, the victory has more to with reputation. Beyond their legal battle, Apple and Qualcomm are competitors in the consumer space, with Qualcomm supplying modems and processors or many Android manufacturers. Qualcomm even supplied modems for Apple until a few years ago before Apple made the switch to Intel tech.

This isn’t the last legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm either. The two companies are headed to court in San Diego again in April. That case originated when the Federal Trade Commission, with Apple and Intel, accused Qualcomm of being a monopoly in the modem space. The trial for the case took place in January, with a decision yet to be announced.

Updated on March 26, 2019: An ITC judge has recommended a U.S. iPhone import ban. 

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