One of the largest and most interesting intellectual property battles in recent history ended with a surprise April settlement. Since 2017, Apple and Qualcomm had filed a series of suits and countersuits until the stakes of their feud climbed to tens of billions of dollars, potential antitrust regulation and leadership in the emerging 5G market.
Now it seems that Apple has blinked first—just after the two companies had presented their opening arguments. As Forbes noted, the settlement followed a March decision that Apple had violated three of Qualcomm’s patents, and it keeps both companies on pace to assert leadership in the emerging 5G market. Even so, the settlement’s biggest winners might be U.S. patent holders everywhere.
Even non-essential patents have value
In its lawsuits, Apple had aimed straight at the heart of Qualcomm's business model. Apple charged that Qualcomm was double-billing them for the chips they supplied. Apple had to pay for both the chips and the royalties Qualcomm charges to license its bundle of patents. Because Qualcomm licenses all its patents as a bundle, rather than a select few, Apple argued that it was paying for patents that didn’t add value.
This is important to your business. Ultimately, the settlement supports the idea that patents do hold value, even if others find them “non-essential.” That value can then contribute toward the damages you show in the case of a patent violation, and you will likely need to show financial harm to win your intellectual property lawsuit.
Had Apple convinced the jury that it shouldn’t have to pay for non-essential patents, Forbes continued, the decision “would have made it easier for licensees to void licensing contracts and devalue patents of all U.S. IP holders.”
Innovation should be rewarded
Very few people or companies hold collections of patents anywhere near the size of Qualcomm’s, but the company’s settlement with Apple reinforces the value of your patents. It doesn’t matter how many patents you hold or if someone else decides they’re “non-essential.” The U.S. patent system is designed to protect your innovation, and the recent settlement between Apple and Qualcomm shows that it works.