back to article Qualcomm sues Apple for allegedly blabbing smartphone chip secrets in emails CC'd to Intel

In its 10-K financial filing on Monday, a day before Apple's fiscal Q4 earnings, chipmaker Qualcomm revealed it has sued Apple yet again, this time for breach of contract. The lawsuit, filed in a state court in San Diego, California, claims Apple flouted its contractual secrecy obligation by sharing confidential info instead …

  1. SuccessCase

    It’s almost like the anonymous post Qualcomm refers to contains just the information and all the legal key phrases that would allow Qualcomm to claim intellectual property guarantees had been breached by an employee in order to justify a court request for an expensive and difficult audit that would be entirely to Qualcomm’s advantage in the current legal battle, but none of the level of information that would unnecessarily add to the legal liabilities of someone caught posting such a message deceptively. Compare with the average post on the same website, or the average post on a forum like e.g. reddit, they just don’t read like that post reads!

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      "Intel instructed to ignore IPR".

      I just got off the floor and my house is still shaking. It was the squadron of pigs which took off from the airfield next door and went hypersonic at under 100 feet altitude above me. They were in a hurry to provide some nuclear warmup to the inner 3 circles of hell where Lucifer was observed snowplowing the frozen moat.

      What an utter load of bullshit.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        re:"What an utter load of bullshit."

        I agree but it is this sort of thing that gets $300/hour lawyers to actually get out of bed in the mornings.

        The post looks like something a paralegal would draw up and not an engineer but hey, this is Apple they are suing. The more mud they can sling the more chance of some of it sticking and then it will be Nirvana for everyone at QC as Apple is forced to capitulate.

        {one can dream can't one?}

        1. Blotto Silver badge

          Re: re:"What an utter load of bullshit."

          Forced to capitulate or buy them?

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      re: "We were told to ignore intellectual property rights when designing the modem."

      The first part is reasonable and is basically the modus operandi of most technology R&D departments - how many engineers/developers do you know conduct an IPR search?

      Also I can't help but think of the work of Singer (sewing machine) and Marconi (radio) where they deliberately used the IPR of others but made their own additions, resulting in the sole difference: their solution actually worked.

      However, the second sentence: "There was even a conspiracy to copy Qualcomm's technology by hints from Apple about the "reference device"." is more troubling as this would imply that the engineers were being directed to deliberately use Qualcomm's IPR and not think for themselves.

      1. Merrill

        Re: re: "We were told to ignore intellectual property rights when designing the modem."

        If engineers/developers conduct IPR analysis, they open themselves up to willful infringement and treble damages.

        It is best to ignore intellectual property and then have legal staff conduct a right to use study under client-lawyer confidentiality.

        Or so I was told.

        1. nerdbert
          Thumb Up

          Re: re: "We were told to ignore intellectual property rights when designing the modem."

          Exactly right. When you are doing development you are nearly always told that you should *NOT* do searches for IP related subjects. Every company I've ever worked for will tell its engineers the same thing: NO IP SEARCHES! Willful violations of patents are *extremely* expensive (see CMU vs Marvell for an example), while inadvertent or unknowing ones are far less expensive.

          Besides, once the product is out there and making money any IP violation becomes a patent war, and very, very few companies want to go up against some of the titans of patenting. Although in this case, Qualcomm vs. Intel would be an epic battle. Both have some very fundamental patents in some key but very different niches. The negotiations would be epic.

          And that points out a fundamental difference between Qualcomm vs. Apple and Qualcomm vs. Intel. Apple doesn't have anywhere near the depth of IP related to chips that Intel does, so Qualcomm has a heck of a better chance of strong arming Apple than it does Intel. It's not like Apple's patents have much overlap with Qualcomm's business, but since Apple is a consumer of Qualcomm and competitor's products, they're more vulnerable to Qualcomm's IP threats.

          1. Mike 16 Silver badge

            Strongarming Intel?

            --- so Qualcomm has a heck of a better chance of strong arming Apple than it does Intel. ---

            I seem to recall that Intel StrongArmed itself back in the day, by tossing the DEC-designed StrongArm to Marvell (Galileo?), since they only really bought the DEC husk to strangle Alpha. I mean, how much of a threat to Chipzilla's dominance could something like Arm be?

            Also reminds me of SGI's genius move of flogging the Sarc-based Cray's to Sun, thus kick-starting the Sun competition to SGI's own Super.

            I think Milo Minderbinder is working for a MegaCorp these days.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: re: "We were told to ignore intellectual property rights when designing the modem."

        The first part is reasonable and is basically the modus operandi of most technology R&D departments

        Slightly more complicated. Based on my experience of doing this in several companies including a Valley one the situation is as follows:

        There is a specific modus operandi which is localized to CS and electronics and US (and/or companies which are US owned).

        1. You are NOT allowed to search for existing intellectual property. Looking up existing patents in your field for an engineer is a sackable offence.

        2. If you KNOW about related IPR you MUST excuse yourself from the project. Not doing so is a sackable offence.

        3. You are not allowed to comment about any knowledge you have on existing IPR to other co-workers (as in that post). That is also a sackable offence.

        The reason behind this is the tripling of damages for wilful infringement in USA patent law. Due to most US electronics and especially software patents failing the obviousness test as per Eu patent law this strategy works. Shit just gets re-invented on the cheap and then it is (in a worst case scenario) non-willful infringement, in most cases lawyers manage to wiggle out on minor technical differences.

        One thing you do not EVER do is get someone who has touched a piece of IPR to declare that it is to be ignored. The company legal depts enforce this without mercy.

        Thus, I find it difficult to believe that an Apple person who has had a brush-up with Qualcom IPR (as per Qualcomm complaint) has instructed Intel to do this. It does not ring true. As far as an Apple person who has NOT been anywhere near a Qualcomm cell modem asking Intel to do this - it is business as usual, but once again - least likely to be said in the open. Stuff like this is said internally, but never put in writing outside a company in a communication with a supplier. So once again - this sounds like flying pigs revving their engines for take off.

        This all is quite different from Chemistry, Biology, etc where any piece of R&D starts with a literature search. There inventions are usually for real so you cannot just reinvent it on the cheap as in CS.

  2. Cuddles Silver badge

    What risks?

    "And if Apple loses, the penalties could reach into the billions and could limit Apple's iPhone distribution. That's why there is speculation that the conflict will end in a settlement – the risks are too substantial to trust to an uncertain court ruling."

    Given how long these cases tend to drag on, even if Apple lose they'll be banned from selling the iPhone 8 in about 2030. There's essentially zero chance of a model that is actually on sale ever being banned - note that the cases in question were filed well before the iPhone X came out so almost certainly won't have any effect even on their current model. While Apple wouldn't want to pay a penalty and would no doubt settle if they think it would be cheaper, given their cash reserves and profits even a loss of a few billion hardly counts as a substantial risk for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What risks?

      Yeah look at the Apple/Samsung cases that are still ongoing. If the courts ruled Samsung couldn't sell the phones at issue, I'm sure they'd shed a tear that phones they haven't sold in six years or whatever and are effectively obsolete (pretty sure they pre-dated LTE) can no longer be sold!

      In fact, I'm sure sure that sales bans were taken off the table years ago because of that, and it is now down to fighting over dollars. If Samsung manages to get the award down to a small enough amount, having to pay Apple's legal fees will be a bigger hit than the damages themselves.

  3. Maelstorm Bronze badge

    I am not surprised as this is SOP for Apple. Yeah, they do invent stuff, but the original GUI? They ripped that off from Xerox. I can see Apple and Intel collaborating to kick Qualcomm to the curb. After all, Apple's computers are powered by Intel chips. I'm sure that if it gets really ugly, Intel will step in on Apple's behalf against Qualcomm. Help a customer and trash a competitor at the same time. This is not unheard of in the tech community. Some time ago, I recall Google transfered some patents to HTC so HTC could do battle with someone...I think it might have been Qualcomm.

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