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Apple's royalty payments showdown with Qualcomm set for April 15

A date has been set for a courtroom battle between Apple and Qualcomm in San Diego in April, one set to resolve some of the ongoing patents and royalties lawsuits between the two companies around the world, but while the possibility of a settlement has been raised in a recent Qualcomm interview, Apple's legal team insist this not to be the case at all.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has penciled in the trial to commence on April 15 in a San Diego federal court, later than a February trial that Qualcomm reportedly requested. Along with fitting the suit into the court's existing schedule, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the judge also believed a delay was needed due to its overall complexity.

While an interview with Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf on Wednesday implied there was the possibility of some sort of resolution between the two companies, despite a report from October claiming no negotiations were happening "at any level," Apple attorney William Isaacson took a moment to advise on the iPhone maker's stance on the matter.

"The parties are going to need to go to trial," advised Isaacson. "There have been unfortunate articles lately that the parties are close to a settlement, and that is not true. There haven't been talks in months."

How did we get here?

The suit is one of a number that Apple and Qualcomm are disputing around the world, largely concerning the area of patent infringement and licensing, specifically for modem technology.

In January 2017, Apple filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm, alleging the chip producer had withheld approximately $1 billion in royalty payments to Apple, in retaliation for cooperating with South Korean antitrust investigations, along with claims of extortion, monopolistic practices, and price gouging. In the suit, Apple claimed Qualcomm insisted on charging Apple "at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined."

Apple's lawsuit followed shortly after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission stepped in with its own suit, accusing Qualcomm of forcing Apple into a baseband exclusivity deal from 2011 until 2016, by offering lower royalty payments in the form of rebates.

The following April, Qualcomm made its own filing with the court denying Apple's complaint, accusing it of attempting to pay less than the fair market value for access to Qualcomm's standard essential payments, breach of contract, and wrongly inducing regulatory action in a number of jurisdictions, among other issues.

Once the exclusivity period ended, Apple started to diversify its modem suppliers to include Intel, but this partnership was also a source of issue for Qualcomm. In a filing from September 2018, Qualcomm claims Apple stole trade secrets relating to its intellectual property that it provided to Intel, specifically software used to improve the performance of its baseband chips.