Apple Inc said Thursday that it will resume selling older iPhone models in its stores in Germany, where they were banned last year due to a patent infringement ruling.
The iPhones will be sold in Germany only with chips from Qualcomm Inc, instead of a mix of chips from Qualcomm and Intel Corp. Qualcomm is in a global legal battle against Cupertino-based Apple over patent licensing, and the German case was part of the chip supplier’s efforts to rack up smaller wins ahead of a major lawsuit with Apple that goes to trial in April in San Diego. Qualcomm last year also won a ban on sales of some iPhones in China.
Apple said it had “no choice” but to stop using some chips from Intel Corp in iPhones headed to Germany in order to comply with the patent infringement ruling.
Qualcomm, the world’s biggest supplier of mobile chips, sued Apple in Germany alleging that some older iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models violated Qualcomm patents around so-called envelope tracking, a feature that helps mobile phones save battery power while sending and receiving wireless signals. The alleged patent violation stemmed not from Intel chips but yet another Apple supplier – Qorvo Inc – whose chip was only present in older phones with Intel modems.
The court sided with Qualcomm and banned sales of some iPhone models that used Intel modem chips, leading Apple to pull the devices from its 15 retail stories in Germany and its online store in the country.
The ban was a victory in Qualcomm’s legal conflict with Apple.
The iPhone maker has alleged that Qualcomm engaged in illegal patent licensing practices to protect a monopoly on so-called modem chips, which connect mobile phones to wireless data networks. Qualcomm has in turn alleged that Apple has infringed its patents. A major case between the two goes to trial in the United States in April.
Apple began phasing in Intel’s modem chips in 2016 after years of using chips exclusively from Qualcomm. In last year’s iPhone models, Apple dropped Qualcomm’s chips completely in favor of Intel’s.
But Qualcomm has continued to supply Apple with chips for older models, and Apple on Thursday said it would use only those for German iPhone 7 and 8 models.
“Qualcomm is attempting to use injunctions against our products to try to get Apple to succumb to their extortionist demands,” Apple said in a statement to Reuters.
Qualcomm and Qorvo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Newer iPhones with Intel chips remain on sale in Germany.
“Intel’s modem products are not involved in this lawsuit and are not subject to this or any other injunction,” Steven Rodgers, Intel’s general counsel, said in a statement.