Apple says it will update software in response to China iPhone ruling that could ban its handsets

  • The two Qualcomm patents in dispute in China enable users to adjust and reformat photos and manage applications through touch-based navigating apps
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 11:01pm

Responding to a recent Chinese court order instructing Apple to stop sales of its iPhones in China, Apple said it will release an operating system update next week to avoid potential compliance issues in an ongoing patent dispute, according to a statement on Friday from the Cupertino, California-based company.

On Monday, a statement from Qualcomm said the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court had granted the US chip maker’s request for two preliminary injunctions against four subsidiaries of Apple, ordering them to immediately stop selling models from the iPhone 6S to iPhone X in China.

“We respect the Fuzhou court and its ruling,” said Apple in the statement. “Based on the iPhone models we offer today in China, we believe we are in compliance. To address any possible concern about our compliance with the order, early next week we will deliver a software update for iPhone users in China addressing the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case.”

In spite of the court injunctions, Apple has not pulled the affected iPhone models from its official online and offline sales platforms in China. On Thursday, Qualcomm confirmed that it has called on the court to enforce the rulings.

Apple hit by China iPhone sales ban – but will it be enforced?

The two Qualcomm patents in dispute in China enable users to adjust and reformat photos and manage applications through touch-based navigating apps on their phones. Qualcomm has brought patent suits in China and other jurisdictions seeking bans on the sale of certain iPhone models to force Apple to the negotiating table.

The two US companies are locked in a global dispute over licensing fees that Qualcomm charges for use of technology that the chip maker says underpins all modern phone systems. Apple has argued that its former supplier unfairly leverages its position as the biggest supplier of chips for smartphones to force payment of the fees.

Qualcomm has countered that Apple is using its intellectual property without paying for it and that the legal cases are aimed at forcing it to lower licensing charges.

The dispute in China comes at a time when Apple’s Greater China sales – the third-largest contributor to Apple’s revenue by region – are already under pressure as the US company faces stiff competition from domestic players offering high-spec models with lower price tags than high-end iPhone handsets.

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Qualcomm, one of the world’s largest mobile chip makers, is also asking courts in China to ban sales of the latest iPhone XS and XR, after winning a preliminary injunction there against Apple’s older models, according to a Financial Times report on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm has persuaded the US International Trade Commission to consider banning imports of iPhones that use Intel chips, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. But the trade agency said it would take a closer look at a recommendation by a judge in September that an import ban would hurt America’s competitive edge in the development of 5G.