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Qualcomm claims Apple stole trade secrets and gave them to rival chipmaker Intel

Will trade war derail Qualcomm’s deal to buy NXP?
A Qualcomm sign at the company’s offices in Santa Clara, Calif.
(Yichuan Cao / TNS)

Qualcomm has fired another salvo in its legal war with Apple, this time accusing the iPhone maker of stealing proprietary software and providing it to archrival Intel so it could develop competitive cellular modem chips for smartphones.

Qualcomm filed a motion Monday in San Diego Superior Court to allow it to amend a pending breach-of-contract lawsuit against Apple to include new claims of misuse of trade secrets, among other things.

The proposed amendment stems from revelations uncovered when the companies exchanged information in the discovery process of the breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed in November.

“Apple has engaged in a years-long campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge designed to steal Qualcomm’s confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance and accelerating time to market of lower quality modem chip sets, including those developed by Intel Corp.,” according to Qualcomm’s proposed amended complaint.

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Apple responded by reiterating a statement it made last year. “Qualcomm’s illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry. They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products — effectively taxing Apple’s innovation.”

Apple has filed a motion in the Superior Court case to compel Qualcomm to show evidence that substantiates its allegations.

Qualcomm and Apple are fighting a multi-front legal war over patents and other issues. Several court cases in the U.S., Germany, China and elsewhere are slated for trials or significant hearings later this year and early next.

Apple used Qualcomm cellular chips in iPhones exclusively from 2011 to 2016. It then split its modem orders for iPhones between Intel and Qualcomm.

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This year, Apple dropped Qualcomm completely and is only using Intel chips for the latest iPhone releases.

Qualcomm sued Apple in November over audit rights to monitor who received access to its software – including its source code – that it provided Apple so the company could better design iPhones with Qualcomm chips.

According to Qualcomm, the two companies entered into strict confidentiality, access and audit agreements to protect Qualcomm’s software code and software tools.

But when phones with Intel cellular modems did not perform as well as Qualcomm modems, Qualcomm contends that Apple used its proprietary software to help Intel.

“Once again Apple has flouted its contractual commitments and misappropriated Qualcomm’s property rights in an effort to improve its performance and increase its profits,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s general counsel. “The code, tools and design details of Qualcomm’s modem technology, which are the subjects of this litigation, represent the genius and labors of our dedicated engineers. We have only the rule of law to protect them.”

Qualcomm is seeking unspecified damages, the return of its intellectual property and possible injunctions. The original lawsuit is set for trial in April. Qualcomm wants to amend its complaint but keep the trial schedule unchanged.

A hearing on the request is scheduled Nov. 30.

mike.freeman@sduniontribune.com

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Twitter:@TechDiego


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