In a determination delivered by a California federal court on Thursday, Qualcomm was found to have no grounds for the clawback of funds dispensed to Apple under an incentive payments agreement, meaning the chipmaker is unlikely to collect what is thought to be billions of dollars.
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.”
Summarized by Mueller, Qualcomm’s arguments claimed Apple broke its BCPA commitment by speaking with — “lying” to — Korean antitrust regulators, allegedly inducing Samsung to influence the Korea Fair Trade Commission in expanding its investigation of Qualcomm business practices, allegedly attempting to expand the scope of a European Commission probe and allegedly inducing the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to level an antitrust lawsuit against the chipmaker. Further, Qualcomm claimed the BCPA’s safe harbor clause does not cover Apple’s decision to respond to questions from government regulators.
Judge Curiel disagreed with Qualcomm on each of the antitrust-related enforcement contingencies, effectively agreeing with Apple’s motion for summary judgment.
The summary judgment is one of many moving parts in Apple’s case against Qualcomm. The Cupertino, Calif., tech giant initially sued over a breach of contract on Qualcomm’s part that amounts to nearly $1 billion in patent royalty rebates. Thursday’s ruling applies to a Qualcomm counterclaim that sought to claw back funds paid out to Apple between 2013 and 2016, the effective dates of the BCPA.
Judge Curiel has yet to issue a decision on Apple’s initial complaint. Considering the jurist’s reasoning in quashing Qualcomm’s counterclaim, Apple might see a favorable outcome.
Apple is fighting Qualcomm on multiple fronts as part of a wide-ranging legal battle that spans the globe. Most recently, jurors in San Diego heard closing arguments in a patent infringement case leveled by Qualcomm. The jury is still deliberating, but a decision is expected to arrive this week.