Qualcomm President Derek Aberle will leave the company on December 31, the San Diego, California-based tech giant announced on Thursday. In a press release on the matter, a number of the firm's top executives thanked Mr. Aberle for his contributions to Qualcomm where he spent 17 years of his career. The 47-year-old is hence implied to be leaving on an amicable note, and his short comment attached to Qualcomm's release suggests as much, with Mr. Aberle stating that he's "very proud" of his long tenure at the company and everything that the semiconductor manufacturer managed to accomplish over the same period. Following his departure, Qualcomm Executive Vice President and current patent chief Alex Rogers will answer directly to its CEO Steven Mollenkopf, the company said.
The move comes amid a major legal battle that Qualcomm is currently leading with Apple over a wide variety of patent disputes which saw accusations from both sides, with the firm also being in the process of dealing with some antitrust watchdogs which previously accused it of anti-competitive practices. Mr. Aberle became Qualcomm President in early 2014 after spending eight years serving in a number of top executive roles in the company's patent licensing unit. The patent business accounts for a minority of Qualcomm's total revenue, yet it's responsible for the majority of its profits, and any major legal defeat on this front could severely impact the firm's performance in the long term, some industry watchers believe. The announcement of Mr. Aberle's departure also signals that the seasoned patent lawyer won't oversee the end of the company's dispute with the top antitrust regulator in South Korea where the firm is currently appealing a massive fine which it was hit with earlier this year.
Back in its home country, the legal battle with Apple is threatening Qualcomm's business model which sees the tech giant collect patent royalties from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on a per-device basis, determining the cost of royalties based on the full price of the entire product. Apple is arguing that this practice is allowing Qualcomm to profit from inventions that it didn't contribute to in any capacity, though Qualcomm still sees its patents as being essential to contemporary smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices.