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Apple loses second Qualcomm patent challenge in U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday again refused to hear Apple’s bid to renew its attempt to invalidate three of Qualcomm’s smartphone patents despite settling a major dispute between the two tech giants.

Judges upheld a lower court ruling against Apple after similarly dismissing the company’s appeal against a lower court ruling in a closely related case challenging two other Qualcomm patents in June.

Qualcomm sued Apple in San Diego federal court in 2017, alleging that its iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch models infringe a number of mobile technology patents. The case was part of a wider global dispute between tech giants.

Apple has challenged the validity of the patents involved in this case with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Board of Patent Review and Appeal.

The companies settled their main dispute in 2019 by signing a billion-dollar deal that allows Apple to continue using Qualcomm chips in the iPhone. The settlement included Apple’s license to thousands of Qualcomm’s patents, but allowed the patent board to continue litigation.

The board upheld the patents in 2020, and Apple has filed an appeal with the U.S. Federal District Court of Appeals, which specializes in patents. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said it has proper legal grounds to appeal because San Diego-based Qualcomm could sue again after the license expires, possibly as early as 2025.

A three-judge panel of the Federal District, in a 2-1 ruling last year, closed the case for lack of standing, finding that the risk of Apple being sued again was speculative and the challenge would not affect its payment obligations under the settlement.

Qualcomm again said that Apple did not demonstrate specific injuries to justify an appeal, as it did in the “materially identical” case, which the high court rejected.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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