Remember when Apple and Qualcomm were suing each other every day over alleged patent infringements? Apple was getting so desperate to find a source of 5G modem chips that it was willing to bet the farm on a 5G modem chip that Intel was developing even though it really wanted the component made by Qualcomm. So right in the middle of opening statements during a trial between the two firms, an announcement was made that changed everything.
Patent troll goes after both Apple and Qualcomm
Apple and Qualcomm said that they had reached a settlement that included the dropping of all lawsuits on both sides. Additionally, the parties agreed on a six-year chip licensing agreement with an option for another two years, and a multi-year chip supply contract. Apple paid Qualcomm a sum reported to be $4.5 billion and everyone was happy.
But it appears that a problem has popped up although this time Apple and Qualcomm are teamed up against a patent holding company (aka a patent troll) called Red Rock. According to AppleInsider, the lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and claims that Qualcomm 5G wireless transceivers (models SMR526, SDR865, and SDX55M) infringe on a patent owned by Red Rock. The suit also claims that iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models use the technology that infringes on Red Rock's patent since the handsets sport Qualcomm's 5G modems.
According to court filings, U.S. Patent No. 7,346,313 is owned by the plaintiff. "This patent outlines a system for calibrating the balance of in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) signals in radio transceivers." Red Rock claims that both Apple and Qualcomm had advance knowledge of the "313" patent and that Qualcomm was informed about it at least three times between 2008 and 2011.
Red Rock says that the actions made by Apple and Qualconn "have been, and continue to be, committed in a knowing willful, and egregious manner and constitute willful infringement of" the intellectual property." If the court agrees with Red Rock and says that the defendant's actions were committed willfully, the amount of the damages assessed against both firms could be tripled.
Back in February, Qualcomm introduced its new 5G modem chip, the Snapdragon X60. And it will be produced using the 5nm process node. The modem chip will deliver data speeds over sub-6GHz spectrum at 5Gbps and higher while the use of mmWave spectrum will produce data speeds of 7.5Gbps or higher.
Eventually, Apple will release its own in-house 5G modem chips for use on the iPhone and that could launch with the 2023 iPhone series. Don't forget that in 2019 Apple spent about $1,000,000,000 to purchase Intel's smartphone chip business.