iPhones Banned in US? Why Qualcomm Wants to Block Apple

Updated

Qualcomm has officially gone nuclear.

The chipmaker on Thursday (July 6) asked U.S. regulators to ban the iPhone's entry into the country, effectively attempting to eliminate Apple's ability to sell smartphones in its biggest market.

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

In a statement, Qualcomm said that it believes Apple is infringing upon six of patents that ultimately improve battery life in its iPhones. The company wants iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus units banned from the country.

"Apple continues to use Qualcomm's technology while refusing to pay for it," Qualcomm executive vice president and general counsel Don Rosenberg told CNBC in a statement.

The request is just the latest in a long battle between Apple and Qualcomm. In January, Apple sued Qualcomm for about $1 billion, alleging the chipmaker was illegally charging royalties on patents that Apple says, Qualcomm has "nothing to do with."

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Apple essentially wants to reduce the amount of royalties it pays for using Qualcomm technology in its handsets. Qualcomm charges a royalty even on components it doesn't directly make.

For its part, Qualcomm argues that none of today's smartphones could be manufactured and sold around the world "without relying upon Qualcomm's fundamental cellular technologies."

The import ban request is a new front in the battle between the companies. And it centers on six patents Qualcomm owns. They include intelligence systems built into a smartphone's antenna, a quick-boot function, and efficient performance in video games and other graphics-intensive apps.

"Apple's iPhones employ these technologies — along with tens of thousands of additional patented technologies from Qualcomm — for media streaming, social media interaction, basic communications and much more to provide unparalleled performance," Qualcomm shared in an infographic on Thursday.

Qualcomm says that Apple uses those patents in its iPhones and refuses to pay for them. In Qualcomm's estimation, then, Apple is effectively stealing its inventions.

Apple hasn't commented directly on Qualcomm's latest assertions. However, it did say in a statement to CNBC that it believes it "shouldn't have to pay [Qualcomm] for technology breakthroughs they have nothing to do with." Apple added that it would be "willing to pay a fair rate" for patent royalties.

What's next for Apple and Qualcomm? Chances are, iPhones won't be banned anytime soon. Instead, Apple will respond to the complaint and a protracted battle could ensue.

So, there's no reason to worry about your iPhones just yet. But don't expect this nasty spat to come to a close anytime soon.