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Apple cites decision to use Intel modems in iPhone as 'real motivation' for Qualcomm patent suit

Apple and Qualcomm on Thursday presented closing arguments in a patent infringement trial in San Diego, with Apple telling jurors that the complaint is less about patents than retribution for using Intel modems in iPhone.

iPhone 4 Verizon

Apple's iPhone 4 for Verizon was the first to incorporate Qualcomm's baseband chip.


According to in-court testimony from CNET, closing remarks from Apple counsel Juanita Brooks focused not only on the patents in play, but the impetus behind Qualcomm's legal action. Specifically, Apple said the "real motivation" behind the San Diego suit, and presumably a string of patent infringement lawsuits filed in courts around the world, is Qualcomm's perturbation of an Apple decision to include Intel as an iPhone modem supplier.

Brooks noted that Qualcomm supplied modems and patented technology to rival smartphone manufacturers during the same period in which Apple began what would become a complete transition to Intel.

"We...should also be able to date somebody else," Brooks said.

Apple's first iPhone to use a Qualcomm wireless chip debuted in 2011 when the tech giant released a version of the iPhone 4 to run on Verizon's network. The two companies forged an exclusive relationship that lasted until 2016, when Apple incorporated Intel baseband chips in select iPhone 7 models.

Intel's share of iPhone modem orders quickly increased over the ensuing two years, and Apple completely pivoted away from Qualcomm with 2018's iPhone XS and XR series. According to Apple COO Jeff Williams, who testified in a recent Federal Trade Commission action against Qualcomm, the Cupertino tech giant attempted to use Qualcomm hardware in the latest iPhones, but was rebuffed.

In its closing arguments, Qualcomm attempted to discredit the testimony of Apple witness Arjuna Siva, a former engineer who Apple claims came up with the idea for a Qualcomm patent-in-suit.

Siva, who worked with contemporaries at Qualcomm prior to the release of Verizon's iPhone 4, was originally slated to offer testimony claiming he co-invented fast boot technology that landed in Qualcomm's U.S. Patent No. 8,838,949. Before he took the stand, however, Siva retained independent counsel and declined to appear in court.

The abrupt change of heart prompted Brooks to air allegations of witness tampering, claims that were reiterated in a court filing on Wednesday.

Following a subpoena, Siva offered testimony acknowledging that the basis of the '949 patent was indeed his idea. In a blow to Apple's defense, however, Siva did not claim inventor status for the intellectual property.

Qualcomm seeks $31 million in damages for violating three patents related to power conservation and operating efficiency in portable devices like smartphones. The chipmaker is asking for a $1.40 fee per infringing iPhone model — those using Intel modems instead of Qualcomm hardware — sold between July 2017 and fall 2018.