German Court prohibits sale of certain iPhone models

Qualcomm and Apple have been litigating back and forth for some time, with the former obtaining a victory in China a few weeks ago. Now the District Court of Munich has hit Apple with two permanent injunctions affecting all iPhone models form the 7, 8 and X series (case No. 7 O 10495/17 and 7 O 10496/17). The judgment effectively prohibits the sale of all iPhones from these series in Germany and also finds Apple liable for damages.

Kat with an iPhone
Qualcomm asserted that Apple used a microchip built by Qorvo in the affected phones, which infringed Qualcomm’s European Patent 2 724 461 (“low-voltage power efficient envelope tracker”).

While it is generally upon the claimant to prove infringement by the defendant, Qualcomm argued it was impossible for them to know exactly how the Qorvo chip worked. Qualcomm had, however, provided a “teardown-report” that was generated by reverse engineering the chip from an iPhone. The Court found that due to factual and procedural reasons, this was sufficient to prove an infringement by Apple. According to the judges, it was up to Apple to counter Qualcomm’s assertion by describing in detail how the Qorvo chip worked without infringing Qualcomm’s patent. Apple claimed they could not provide such details, because doing so would endanger Qorvo’s confidentiality interests.

This led the court to take Qualcomm’s assertion for granted, that the Qorvo chip worked in a way that infringed Qualcomm’s patent. As a result, Apple was ordered to stop selling devices with the "infringing" chip, to provide details about the sales of the affected iPhone models and to pay damages to Qualcomm.

The judgments can theoretically be enforced before they become final but, in order to do so, Qualcomm must provide security in both cases. Looking at the potential effects of enforcing the judgment, the court ordered Qualcomm to pay a security of EUR 668 Million – in each case! [to this GuestKat's knowledge, this is the highest security ever asked for by a German court]

Qualcomm has announced it will pay the security in a matter of days, while Apple has announced it will appeal the judgments.

This will not be the last we hear of the global litigation between the two tech giants, as the Munich District Court has already scheduled a hearing in March 2019, in which two cases regarding another patent (“mobile terminal with a monopole like antenna”) will be argued. Ten more cases are pending at either the first or the second instance courts in Munich.
German Court prohibits sale of certain iPhone models German Court prohibits sale of certain iPhone models Reviewed by Mirko Brüß on Saturday, December 22, 2018 Rating: 5


  1. It is difficult to say who is to blame in the whole story. Neither Apple nor Qualcomm are innocent in the escalation. From what I understand, QUalcomm is seeking a dominant position in the market, which is also not something acceptable. On the other hand it is not reasonable for Apple to claim that it cannot unveil secrets from his chip maker.

    On the other hand, it it is all about a chip in the iPhone built by Qorvo, why did Qualcomm not attack Qorvo?

    It seems disproportionate to stop the sale of a device just because one slight part in it is allegedly infringing a patent. But clearly in front of a court, one is like on high sea, in the hands of God.

    By the way, the patent at stake is under opposition and the provisional opinion of the opposition division is not in favour of Apple and Intel who are the two opponents.

  2. Qualcomm invented and patented the technology. They want to sell their chips containing the patented technology to Apple. If Apple decide to buy infringing goods from another supplier then they should expect the consequences.

  3. @look at things:
    does Qorvo sell the chips in Europe? Or import them to Germany?
    Does Qorvo even do business itself in Europe?

    If any of these questions gets answered with "no", I don't see how Qualcomm could use their patent right in Germany/EP-validation states to attack Qorvo directly.

  4. Thanks to Kant and Kay for their explanations.

    That Qalcomm wants to sell chips containing the patented technology to Apple is OK, and that for the same token, Apple does not want to have to rely on a single provider of chips is also OK. That Qualcomm wants Apple to ban Intel as chip provider is also nothing new.

    Even it is not a SEP which is at stake, from what I understand Qualcomm, wants to have a quasi-monopoly in the sector. In this respect Qualcomm got a rebuff from the ITC in the US.

    But what is worrying here, is that infringement has not event (yet) been decided, and nevertheless dear consequences ensued, actually for purely procedural reasons. It is clear that any assertion, if not properly refuted becomes a fact, but here I would have expected the court to be a bit more prudent.

    If the suspicion of infringement is high, nothing against stopping the sale of potentially infringing items, or even order a recall, but then to order at the same time the destruction of items for which infringement has not yet been decided goes a trifle too far. At the same time ordering a deposit of nearly 1, 5 billions € as security is something never heard off.

    According to another blog post, the chairman of the court is meant to have said: "If a defence is only possible by means of revealing a secret, a party must reveal it, in which event it ceases to be a secret, or a party may elect not to reveal it, in which event it may lose the case, as has happened today."

    That is going very far, and is a catch 22 situation. This is not acceptable before a court. One even wonders whether a judge at a lower court is entitled to open such a new field of case law.

    I know it is bad to criticise judges, but a legitimate question arises: could it be the members of the court, and especially its Chairman, wanted to get publicity, and to encourage forum shopping towards Munich rather than Düsseldorf or Manheim?

    It is to be hoped that the second instance will look into the matter quite promptly. If the opinion uttered in Munich would be endorsed by higher courts, up to the BGH, Germany could become the paradise of NPEs. Heaven's forbid.


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