Qualcomm accuses Apple of helping Intel with chip software

The wireless-chip giant found an Intel engineer cc'd on a message from Apple that asked for confidential software information.

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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
3 min read

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf has been battling Apple over licensing fees. 


The patent licensing battle between Apple and Qualcomm keeps getting more heated.

Wednesday, Qualcomm filed another lawsuit against Apple, this time alleging Apple shared confidential Qualcomm software information with its chip rival, Intel. 

The breach of contract lawsuit said Qualcomm gave Apple "unprecedented access to Qualcomm's very valuable and highly confidential software, including source code." In return, Apple agreed to take steps to keep the software confidential and secure. But Qualcomm said instead it found that Apple shared information with Intel. 

In one instance, Apple requested confidential software information from Qualcomm and cc'd an Intel engineer on the message, Qualcomm said. 

Qualcomm wants a court to declare Apple breached the agreement and award damages, among other demands.

"As the direct and proximate result of Apple's conduct, Qualcomm has suffered significant damages in an amount to be proven at trial," the filing said. 

Apple also hasn't complied with Qualcomm's rights to audit Apple's compliance with the provisions of their software agreement, Qualcomm said in its lawsuit. It wants to do so to make sure Apple hasn't shared more information with Intel.

Without that chance, "Qualcomm will suffer substantial, irreparable, and incalculable injury for which monetary damages will not provide adequate compensation," the company said.

Qualcomm declined to comment beyond the filing. In a regulatory filing with its quarterly earnings report Wednesday, Qualcomm said, "the complaint recounts instances when Apple failed to protect the company's software as required by the agreement and failed to provide sufficient information to which the company is entitled under the agreement in order to understand whether other breaches have occurred."

Intel declined to comment. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.   

Chip battle

The two companies have been fighting over patents since January, when Apple filed suit against Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying the maker of wireless chips didn't give fair licensing terms for its technology. Apple wants to pay a lower amount for using Qualcomm technology in its devices.

Qualcomm, the world's biggest provider of mobile chips, responded by suing Apple for patent infringement and seeking a ban on iPhone sales. The company maintains that no modern handset -- including the iPhone -- would have been possible without its cellular technologies.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is designing iPhones and iPads for next year that would ditch the chipmaker's components in favor of modem chips from Intel and possibly MediaTek. The WSJ, citing an anonymous source, said Apple made the move after Qualcomm "withheld software critical to testing its chips in iPhone and iPad prototypes."

Qualcomm, in response to the WSJ article, said: "The Qualcomm modem that could be used in the next generation iPhone has already been fully tested and released to Apple. We are committed to supporting Apple's new devices consistent with our support of all others in the industry."

Bloomberg earlier reported the latest litigation news. 

Update at 12:03 p.m. PTwith Intel declining to comment. 

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