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Apple dealt legal blow as jury awards Qualcomm $ 31 million


Apple and Qualified have a heated legal battle.

James Martin / CNET

Apple violated three Qualcomm patents and should pay the chipmaker $ 31 million for infringing on its technology, jury decided on Thursday, giving the chipmaker momentum as it heads into another legal with the iPhone maker next month.

Qualcomm, which filed the suit in July 2017, allegedly using Apple's technology without permission in some versions of its popular iPhones. The jury awarded the full amount it requested at the start of the two-week trial, which was hero in San Diego .

One disputed Qualcomm patent covers technology that allows a smartphone to quickly connect to the internet once the device is turned on. Other deals with graphics processing and battery life. The third addresses technology that shifts traffic between a phone's apps processor and modem, allowing for faster downloads. The $ 31 million in damages is a drop in the bucket for Apple, a company that has recently become a $ 1 trillion company last year. But it is an important victory for Qualcomm, burnishing its reputation as a mobile component innovator. The win also lends credibility to the notion that much of the company's innovation is reflected in iPhones.

The verdict sets the stage for a highly-anticipated trial of the two companies scheduled for the next month in San Diego. The dispute, on Qualcomm's patent royalties with Apple, is worth billions of dollars and will be a success in the tech giants' wide-ranging legal story.

The clash between Apple and Qualcomm started two years ago, when the Federal Trade Commission, with help from Apple and Intel, accused Qualcomm of being a monopoly in modem chips. The FTC argued Qualcomm's royalty rates stopped competitors from entering the market and drove up phone prices. That trial took place in January, and the parties are currently waiting for a decision.

Qualcomm's licensing business, too.

The patent case that was decided Thursday, presided over by US District Judge Dana Sabraw, is more technical and less high profile than the other parts of the legal battle. Still, it could have implications for how your phone is made and how much it costs.

The two sides spent a lot of the trial fighting over the boot-up patent. Apple argued that one of its then-engineers, Arjuna Siva, made key contributions to the technology and should be named on the patent as well. Apple said Qualcomm stole the idea when the two companies were working together to bring Qualcomm's chips into iPhones. The trial took a striking twist last week when Siva, who now works for Google, seemingly backed out of appearing then to testify on Monday .

The jury took down Apple's argument that Siva should have been named as an inventor.

Apple argued the trial wasn't solely about patents. Juanita Brooks said the "real motivation" for the lawsuit was retaliation for Apple bringing on Intel as a second chip supplier in 2016. She said Qualcomm was upset because the two companies previously had an exclusive relationship since 2011.

Now Intel has replaced Qualcomm in iPhones altogether.

"Qualcomm went into a drawer, dusted off some old patents, and threw them against the wall to see if they'd stick," she said, In response, David Nelson said, "We're going to get back on our intellectual property."

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