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Apple will update China iPhones to prevent ban, but Qualcomm still fighting
- Apple will send software updates to several iPhone models in China to remove features disputed by Qualcomm as illegal. This will, hopefully, avoid a Chinese iPhone sales ban.
- However, Qualcomm is at the same time fighting for the potential sales ban to cover even more iPhone models.
- Apple admitted that if it cannot avoid the Chinese sales ban, it will be forced to settle with Qualcomm.
Earlier this week, a Chinese court issued a set of preliminary injunctions in the patent fight between Apple and Qualcomm. The injunctions — which heavily favor Qualcomm — essentially put a Chinese sales ban into effect for the Apple iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
Apple revealed today, via Reuters, that it will push a software update to the Chinese iPhones in question next week. This software update will change and/or remove the disputed Qualcomm technology, which Apple hopes will allow the company to avoid the sales ban.
“Early next week we will deliver a software update for iPhone users in China addressing the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case,” Apple said. “Based on the iPhone models we offer today in China, we believe we are in compliance.”
Originally, Apple claimed the sales ban was irrelevant because the iPhone models in question all run iOS 12, which the company argues fixes the issues revolving around the case. However, Apple must have changed its mind, as now it is pushing an update.
Ultimately, it will be up to the Chinese courts to decide if this future software update will be enough to avoid the sales ban.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm is pushing even harder on Apple, apparently emblazoned by the preliminary injunctions win this week. According to The Financial Times (via Engadget), Qualcomm is now pushing for the sales ban to also include the Apple iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.
Should the Chinese courts deem the software update to not be enough to avoid the ban, Apple concedes it would have no other option but to settle with Qualcomm. If this comes to pass, it would be an enormous win for Qualcomm in its years-long fight with Apple over alleged patent licensing infringement.
However, Apple does not mince words when describing how destructive an Apple sales ban in China would be. Apple had this to say in a December 10 filing, via The South China Morning Post:
“Apple will be forced to settle with the Respondent, causing all mobile phone manufacturers to relapse into the previous unreasonable charging mode and pay high licensing fees, resulting in unrecoverable losses in the downstream market of mobile phones. Apple, many other companies, and consumers … will suffer truly irreparable harm, [and the Chinese government] may suffer hundreds of thousands of tax losses.”
We can only assume that next week we will learn whether the Chinese courts will grant Apple some leniency in this case.