Apple v. Qualcomm jury includes pilot, former MLB pitcher, retired nurse

Most of the jury members are well educated, and a third are women.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
4 min read
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A pilot, a former baseball pitcher and retired nurse walk into a bar... 

It may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but that's actually a few of the professions held by the jury members selected for the Apple v. Qualcomm trial in San Diego. Those nine people will decide the fate of Qualcomm's licensing business in its battle against Apple and its manufacturing partners.

Monday marked the start of the five-week, $27 billion trial that'll determine whether Qualcomm operates a smartphone modem chip monopoly and charges too much in licensing fees. The jury trial is being argued before US District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the Southern District of California in San Diego. The outcome could affect what wireless networks your phone taps into.   

Watch this: Apple, Qualcomm go head-to-head -- with billions at stake

Apple has accused Qualcomm of anticompetitive practices that have raised chip prices, restricted competition and hurt customer choice. Qualcomm has countered that the iPhone wouldn't be possible without its technology, and it deserves to be paid for its innovation. 

Jury selection took the entire day Monday. The people selected ended up being moderately young, fairly diverse and well educated (not every person is a white male retiree). Of the nine jurors, three are women. Only half the group members are white, and just two are retired. 

One juror is a retired clinical psychologist who counseled children who were terminally ill. After retirement from his private practice, he worked with UnitedHealthcare on investigating attempted and completed suicides. 

Another man is a former professional pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. He now works as an air traffic controller in San Diego. A third man on the jury is a pilot, and another male juror has an MBA in retail sales management and works at a power tools company.

One of the three women on the jury is an environmental consultant who helps companies comply with the Clean Water Act. Another woman is an accountant and the third is a retired nurse who instructed other nurses on home health care practices. The nurse, an African American woman also with an MBA, quipped to judge Curiel that she saw some headlines about the story in the newspaper but decided not to read them. 

"There was another article yesterday I also didn't read," she said. 

"Excellent!" Curiel responded as he spoke to the rest of the potential jury pool. "I want you to model your behavior after Juror number one."

The potential group of jurors had several people with technology backgrounds. A couple have done work with the military related to cellular technology. One even partnered with Qualcomm on a military project that ultimately failed. Another is an IT solutions architect who was setting up a private LTE network for his company. 

Everyone with an engineering degree or technology expertise was dismissed, except for one man who previously worked for the Defense Department. He now works in metrology, measuring radiation levels for safety and calibrating equipment to be sure it's working properly. 

The sixth man on the jury didn't discuss his profession during the selection process.

Battle history

Apple, which initially filed suit against Qualcomm in January 2017, argues it essentially pays Qualcomm twice, first by purchasing processors and then by paying royalty fees. The Cupertino, California-based company says it should pay fees based only on the cost of the wireless chip inside its iPhones. Apple partners Foxconn and Pegatron, which assemble its devices, agree and joined the lawsuit. Qualcomm counters that it isn't a monopoly and says its technology is more than modems so it should be compensated based on the selling price of the phone itself.

Tens of billions of dollars are at stake in the case. Apple's manufacturing partners want a refund of $9 billion for allegedly overpaying royalties since 2013. Under antitrust law, that amount could be tripled. Qualcomm wants damages of its own for breach of contract, though it hasn't detailed the amount. An even bigger concern for Qualcomm is whether it will have to change its entire business model, collecting far lower royalties based on the price of its chips rather than the phones they're in.

For consumers, this ongoing battle could result in iPhone connectivity speeds that can't match up to those of Android devices. Apple's current modem supplier, Intel, doesn't yet have a 5G chip ready. Qualcomm is the only option for handset makers who want to tap into the ultrafast wireless network this year. We may not see a 5G iPhone until 2020 or even 2021. If Qualcomm and Apple can't resolve their problems, it's unlikely Apple will have Qualcomm modems in its iPhones again anytime soon. Even if Apple succeeds in its quest to lower Qualcomm's licensing fees, it's highly unlikely Apple will cut its iPhone prices and pass the savings onto consumers. 

Court will continue Tuesday with opening arguments and Apple's first witnesses. It will call Tony Blevins, Apple vice president of procurement, in person and will also play various video depositions.