A Chinese court has banned the sale of some older iPhone models in China for violating two of Qualcomm's patents. While Qualcomm claims victory in this ruling, actual enforcement of this ban is far from certain, and Apple isn't backing down from the battle that could lead all the way to China's Supreme Court.
The patents in question relate to photo editing and app management to features on smartphone touchscreens, according to Qualcomm. The court ruling effectively bans older iPhone models from the iPhone 6C all the way up to last year's iPhone X. The latest trio of iPhone XS; XS Max, and XR are not affected.
Qualcomm, the biggest supplier of smartphone chips, filed its case in China in late 2017 and the battle has raged in several countries, from the across the European Union to South Korea. Although the chipmaker has some season to celebrate, it should hold the champagne for now - it's far from over. The pro-Qualcomm ruling was won in a Chinese Provincial Court, not China’s specialized intellectual property courts in Beijing.
In a statement on Monday Apple said that all of its phone models remained on sale in mainland China and that it had filed a request for reconsideration with the court. The appeal process, which could well end up at China's Supreme Court, may take many months to resolve, during which the older iPhones should remain available.
Rather than an actual ban happening, what's more likely is that pressure from Chinese courts will push Apple to reach some kind of settlement with Qualcomm over the long-running IP dispute.
One front of the trade war?
This legal struggle between corporations takes place in the wider context of the tense US-China trade war which is affecting the fortunes and interests of tech companies all over the world, from Huawei to Google. Rising Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus rely on Qualcomm's chips, as does the giant Huawei.
Apple, on the other hand, manufactures its components in China but is still an American rival to the home-grown brands, which may be a factor in court decisions.
What do you think of the Apple-Qualcomm dispute? Will China's support of its own brands lead to bias, even if Apple assembles there?