Qualcomm legal strategy backfires, Apple handed win in patent trial early motions

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Qualcomm has been accused of performing a "tactical" error in its ongoing patent fight against Apple, with a magistrate judge highlighting the chip producer's mistake in not making counterclaims, an error that it Qualcomm failed to correct in pre-trial motions.

Pre-trial activities in Apple and Qualcomm's patent lawsuits have led to an interesting slip by Qualcomm's legal team. According to FOSS Patents, Qualcomm failed to add an important part to its motion that it tried to correct at a later time.

A ruling on September 4 notes Apple motioned in July to strike portions of 12 expert reports supplied by Qualcomm, claiming the experts "improperly opined" on infringement, as well as attacking nine more Qualcomm patents in the suit. This is on top of the original complaint that requested declaratory judgment on invalidity and non-infringement of nine patents.

At the time, Qualcomm's response to Apple's motion unexpectedly declined to bring compulsory infringement counterclaims, an element that is typically brought up in such maneuvers, and effectively limiting what its experts could say during the trial.

Later, Qualcomm's legal team had a change of heart, and attempted to object to Apple's striking motion so that the jury would hear the full opinions of its experts, but Apple motioned to strike this alteration. Apple's strike partially succeeded, with Qualcomm unable to use some of the testimony at trial unless it successfully appeals.

Other elements of the expert opinions are still being permitted, with Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin of the United States District Court of the Southern District of California advising the sections focussed on how "standard-essential" the patents are, and their value. How essential the patents are can relate to how severe the infringement can be.

In his ruling, Judge Dembin wrote about how the expert reports were inconsistent with Qualcomm's decision to not bring counterclaims against Apple, declaring "Qualcomm will be held accountable for the consequences of its tactical decisions."

"To the extent that Qualcomm claims they have disclosed in discovery their views regarding infringement and, consequently, there is no surprise and no prejudice, is unavailing," writes Dembin. "Rules are rules and tactical decisions have consequences."

The patent infringement suit is one of a number of legal battles Qualcomm is involved with relating to Apple and its intellectual property. In another related case, plaintiffs in a class action suit were denied a motion to prevent Qualcomm from obtaining a U.S. International Trade Commission exclusion order, one that would affect the import of iPhones with Intel modems.


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