Qualcomm has won a victory against Apple in a sideshow to the main legal struggle between between the two tech giants.
A San Diego jury has found that Apple infringed three Qualcomm patents regarding iPhone startup and battery life, according to Reuters. The jury has ordered that Apple pay $1.41 per iPhone with patent infringement, which comes to about $31 million.
Apple and Qualcomm are engaged in an ongoing legal battle regarding Qualcomm’s policy of charging intellectual property licensing fees on top of the actual prices for its smartphone chips. Apple has brought a lawsuit against Qualcomm for $1 billion alleging that Qualcomm is charging for IP that it has no right to — that case goes to court in April.
The FTC also got in on the action when it brought a case against Qualcomm for engaging in anti-competitive pricing of its IP. That case wrapped up in January, and it’s in the hands of a judge, or the two companies, to reach a settlement.
Friday’s verdict is a relatively small win for Qualcomm, financially speaking, that’s adjacent to the two larger cases. However, it could have larger implications for the main lawsuit, according to Reuters.
In this case, Qualcomm sued Apple for infringing on just three patents related to reducing battery consumption. The win has allowed Qualcomm to establish that its IP has a per-device cost — in this case, $1.41 — which it could use in arguments in the main case. This codifies as legitimate the very principle that Apple is contesting in its claim: that Qualcomm shouldn’t be able to charge a per-phone royalty based on IP.
The ruling could be even more financially significant since Qualcomm says these three patents represent just a small portion of its “tens of thousands” of other IP claims.
So that’s one small multi-million dollar step for Qualcomm. And one potentially giant leap for patent trolling.