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Qualcomm's bid to block iPhone imports 'magnifies' antitrust practices, consumers contend

A group of consumers suing Qualcomm over alleged antitrust practices on Thursday filed a motion to prevent the chipmaker from obtaining a U.S. International Trade Commission exclusion order targeting iPhones with Intel modems, saying an import ban would simply amplify anticompetitive behavior.




In a motion for preliminary injunction filed with the Northern California District Court, plaintiffs in a consolidated class action complaint argue Qualcomm's ITC complaint against Apple is another attempt to flex monopoly power over the smartphone modem industry. The motion asks presiding district court judge Lucy Koh to enjoin Qualcomm from pursuing the potential ban under the All Writs Act.

Qualcomm lodged the ITC complaint last July as part of a withering legal barrage of suit alleging patent infringement and contract violations.

Focusing on intellectual property covering carrier aggregation, graphics processing and signal amplification, the ITC action looks to block the import and sale of iPhone and iPad devices using Intel modems. Qualcomm also seeks to halt sales of devices already in the U.S.

The limited exclusion order would not impact units outfitted with Qualcomm chips. As noted by plaintiffs in today's motion, the company said it would "fill any void" by supplying Apple the modems necessary to keep production at normal levels.

"In short, the exclusion order Qualcomm seeks would injure competition in a market already suffering from Qualcomm's anticompetitive behavior," the motion reads.

Consumers in the antitrust case consolidated their complaints with a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in early 2017. That case claims Apple was forced into an exclusive deal to buy modems from Qualcomm in return for lower licensing fees.

Bloomberg reported on the filing earlier today.

Qualcomm's ITC case went to trial earlier this month as the first of many to be heard both in the U.S. and abroad. ITC staff issued a recommendation that the presiding trade judge find the iPhone maker in infringement of Qualcomm IP.

Today's filing is the latest wrinkle in a multi-jurisdictional legal battle between the two tech companies. Apple initiated in January with $1 billion suit claiming Qualcomm abuses its "monopoly power" to demand high royalties and force chip buyers to license patents. The chipmaker countered in April and the pair have since lodged multiple complaints in domestic and international courts.