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Apple ups the stakes in patent royalties battle with Qualcomm

Pushing to have 18 Qualcomm patents invalidated

Poker all in

Apple is expanding its legal war with Qualcomm to include an attempt at having the chip designer's patents thrown out.

The Cupertino giant filed an amended complaint [PDF] that now asks the US District Court for Southern California to declare 18 of the patents Qualcomm seeks payments for invalidated.

The two companies have for months been at odds over the royalties bill for Apple's iPhone, with Qualcomm seeking back payments of royalties and Apple looking to get back what it feels were excessive fees from patents it never actually used.

Now, according to Apple's lawyers, the patents Qualcomm wants payments for are in many cases "rendered obvious" in other patents or covered by prior art, making them invalid. In other cases, Apple is asking the court to find that the patents are not in fact essential to standards such as 4G wireless networking and should not be collected on.

Should the patents be invalidated, Apple would try to collect back the payments it already made to Qualcomm.

Apple is also updating its claim to accuse Qualcomm of "double dipping" on licensing fees, first by selling mobile chipsets, then by charging hardware makers like Apple a licensing fee for the patents associated with those chipsets.

"By tying together the markets for chipsets and licenses to technology in cellular standards, Qualcomm illegally enhances and strengthens its monopoly in each market and eliminates competition," Apple alleges.

"Then, Qualcomm leverages its market power to extract exorbitant royalties, later agreeing to reduce those somewhat only in exchange for additional anticompetitive advantages and restrictions on challenging Qualcomm's power, further solidifying its stranglehold on the industry."

Citing the recent Supreme Court decision in the Lexmark ink case, Apple claims that Qualcomm's business model is illegal, and that by purchasing the chipsets it should be protected for patent licensing claims.

The claims would add to the $1bn payout Apple is asking the courts to award it. Cupertino is also looking for protection for the manufacturing partners withholding their own royalty payments to Qualcomm at Apple's behest.

"For years, Qualcomm has abused its business relationships with Apple and blocked competitors from selling chipsets," Apple says.

"Qualcomm's recent effort to cover its tracks – by punishing Apple for providing truthful testimony at the request of government regulators – underscores the lengths to which Qualcomm will go to protect its extortion scheme." ®

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