The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has launched a probe on Apple Inc.'s mobile phone products and device components, including baseband processor modems, to determine whether the Cupertino, California-based tech giant is in violation of six patents owned by Qualcomm. According to the USITC, the investigation revolves around the iPhone 7 in particular, including the radio frequency and processing parts of the device, after the American semiconductor and telecommunications equipment firm filed a patent complaint with the trade commission last month.
In May this year, Qualcomm was reportedly seeking an importation ban on Apple's iPhone products in the United States. Then last month, the chipmaker finally raised its grievance to the international trade watchdog over what it claims to be Apple's infringement on Qualcomm's mobile chips that were currently in the development stage, including the SDM845 model, which was believed to be referring to the Snapdragon Mobile 845 that the company is likely to release commercially next year. Reports had it that the Snapdragon 845 is already in trial production, with the manufacturing process being conducted on a 7nm process node, which is expected to boost the power and efficiency of the chip. The processor is supposed to power Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S9 line of products with the X20 LTE modem and a module that features support for LTE Category 18, though nothing is confirmed at the moment.
Once the USITC finds that Apple is indeed guilty of infringing Qualcomm's patent for the abovementioned mobile chip, the regulators could impose a US ban on iPhone devices from China, where the handset is manufactured. In its complaint, Qualcomm also asked the USITC to issue an exclusion order and a cease and desist ruling, which would put a stop on Apple's importation of iPhone products to the United States and prevent the company from restarting the operation at any time in the future. The USITC said it expects to schedule a target date to complete the investigation within 45 days of instituting the probe. In addition to Qualcomm, Apple is also in legal battle with Nokia after the Finnish company sued the tech giant last year for allegedly infringing on its patents for displays, video coding, antennas, software, user interface, and chipsets. An update on Qualcomm's case against Apple should follow in the coming months.