ITC May Impose a Limited iPhone Import Ban in the US as It Reviews Previous Qualcomm Ruling

The U.S International Trade Commission (ITC) will be reviewing a ruling in which Apple was allowed to continue selling iPhones in the United States despite infringing on a Qualcomm patent. When the original decision was announced, Apple was not handed an import ban on iPhones in the US since it was not in public interest.

In the original case, Qualcomm had claimed that the Intel modem used by Apple in its devices infringed on six of its patents. The Intel modem in question was not the culprit but the way Apple had implemented it in its iPhones was the reason behind the patent infringement.

Qualcomm ended up removing three of the six patents from the case down the line, though it was ultimately ruled that Apple infringed on only one of Qualcomm’s patents. Back then, Administrative law judge Thomas Pender, now a retired member of the ITC tribunal, said that while Apple did infringe on Qualcomm’s patents, it was in the U.S. public interest that iPhones were not banned in the country.

Now, the ITC will be once again hearing the case and decide if Apple infringes on Qualcomm’s patent and whether an iPhone import ban in the US should be granted or not.

“We are pleased that the Commission is going to review the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation that no ITC remedy should result from a finding of infringement,” Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement after the announcement.

In its decision, the ITC will also take into account how much time it will take Apple to design a workaround for Qualcomm’s patented battery saving technology, national security concerns raised by the sales ban, and if a limited import ban could be placed. The final ruling of the case is due before February 19.

Our Take

If Qualcomm ends up managing to get even a limited import ban on iPhones in the US, it would be a major win for the San Diego chipmaker. While Apple’s lawyer has clarified that it is no mood to settle its matters with Qualcomm outside of court, the import ban might just force the company to reconsider its decision.

[Via Reuters]