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Qualcomm faces more antitrust scrutiny in Germany over iPhone modem lawsuits

Qualcomm is facing increased scrutiny in Europe, with more preliminary investigations being made against the company over antitrust issues, due to a complaint from Apple earlier this year that alleges Qualcomm is using patent lawsuits in Germany as a means to monopolize part of the iPhone supply chain.




The European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition queried Qualcomm about Apple's antitrust complaint on Tuesday, which the iPhone producer had filed earlier this year but was left unreported, according to a report from analytics firm MLex spotted by Foss Patents.

The complaint is said to involve Qualcomm's attempts at patent enforcement against Apple in Germany, where trials are expected to occur over the next few months, with iPhones using Intel baseband chips being the subject of the suits. Qualcomm claims Intel modems used in the iPhones are infringing on Qualcomm's patents, and is seeking for a ban of imports of iPhones into the country.

While a judge initially sided with Qualcomm, the ruling was postponed until the European Patent Office makes a decision on patent validity that could affect the outcome.

Apple's complaint to the European Union alleges Qualcomm is using patent enforcement as a way to coerce Apple into acquiring its chips instead of sharing the supply chain with Intel. While previously Qualcomm had provided Apple cheaper chips in exclusivity agreements, Apple's move away to Intel has prompted Qualcomm to try and force Apple to reconsider by using the courts as a weapon.

Qualcomm was hit with a $1.2 billion fine by the European Commission in January over the exclusivity deals, which involved paying Apple billions to use its LTE baseband chips for a five-year period between 2011 and 2016.

The new preliminary investigations could, depending on what the Commission discovers, turn into a formal investigation and could produce yet another fine against the chip maker down the road.

This is the latest in a long line of courtroom battles between Apple and Qualcomm around the world, all relating to the cellular chips used by Apple in its products. Given the sheer number of complaints, both in the United States and Europe as well as other regions, it is unlikely the legal arguments between the companies will end anytime soon.