Patent protection is an important way for businesses in competitive industries to protect valuable product innovations, and securing and defending patents is an important ongoing task for businesses which continually develop competitive new products. When necessary, patent infringement can and should be addressed in court, where various remedies may be sought, but one way companies can proactively address the issue is by licensing the use of patented product designs or utilities.
One area where patenting and licensing issues often come up is in the mobile device industry, where innovation allows competitors greater market share. One company that seems to continuously be involved in patent disputes is Apple. As an industry leader, Apple has been involved in a great deal of litigation with competitors like Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola.
More recently, Apple has become embroiled in litigation with Qualcomm, which is suing Apple for breach of contract after Apple refused to pay four of its contract manufacturers Qualcomm licensing fees for use of cellular patents in the production of iPhones and iPads. Apple uses contractor manufacturers to pay Qualcomm licensing fees, and Apple reimburses these manufacturers. In this case, Qualcomm is accusing Apple of compelling its manufacturers to stop paying Qualcomm
Qualcomm alleges in court filings that Apple is engaging in intentional interference with contractual relations in an attempt to pressure Qualcomm to agree to unfair licensing terms. Apple, for its part, says Qualcomm has been attempting to charge royalties for technologies Apple has not used.
As is obvious from looking at the smartphone patent wars, patent and licensing litigation can become quite complex and can involve a great deal of money. Businesses should always work with experienced legal counsel to protect themselves in this area, both with securing patents and negotiating and enforcing licensing agreements.
Forbes, “Qualcomm Is Suing iPhone Manufacturers In Backlash Against Apple,” Aaron Tilley, May 17, 2017.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Qualcomm sues iPhone makers in escalating patent war with Apple,” Mike Freeman, May 17, 2017.