A California federal court on Thursday found for Apple in a legal spat with Qualcomm over iPhone patent rebate payments. Qualcomm owes Apple close to $1 billion in rebate payments. The ruling is unrelated to the iPhone patent trial that wrapped up this week.
The summary judgment from Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, handed in today, finds Qualcomm’s counterclaims to a clawback based on a Business Cooperation and Patent Agreement (BCPA) without merit.
As noted by FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller, Qualcomm sought a reimbursement of billions of dollars handed to Apple as part of quarterly BCPA payments paid out over a period of three years. Under the agreement, Apple promised not to “initiate or induce certain types of litigation or investigations.”
Apple sued Qualcomm two years ago, saying the chip company had been holding back on paying patent royalty rebates mandated by the agreement.
The deal worked as follows: Apple’s suppliers paid royalties to Qualcomm for the use of their patented technology in the iPhone. Apple would then reimburse them. Qualcomm and Apple had an agreement stating if Apple did not attack it in court or with regulators, Qualcomm would pay Apple a rebate on those iPhone patent payments.
Qualcomm said it stopped making the rebate payments to Apple because Apple had broken the agreement by making “false” statements to the Korean Fair Trade Commission, which was investigating Qualcomm over antitrust allegations. Qualcomm also claimed Apple urged smartphone makers to complain to regulators.
Judge Curiel disagreed with Qualcomm on each of the antitrust-related enforcement contingencies. The judge ruled Qualcomm is not entitled to a refund of payments tendered and is not released from making further payments under the BCPA.
Qualcomm is expected to appeal the judge’s decision.