' Benjamin Black | MTTLR

Qualcomm v. Apple : Why We Should Strengthen Trade Secrets on Programming Code

Qualcomm and Apple are embroiled in legal feuds all over the world, including multiple separate litigations in the United States. Although there are several suits, both sides are probably coordinating these myriad efforts to create a unified front. Late October 2018, San Diego Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Stern issued a tentative ruling that granted Qualcomm’s request to amend its breach of contract countersuit against Apple to include claims of misappropriation of trade secrets. Specifically, Qualcomm alleged that Apple stole its broadband chipset source code and other software tools, sharing them with Qualcomm’s competitor Intel. This one slice of the feud between Apple and Qualcomm can be traced back nearly two years. Apple accused Qualcomm of unfair royalties and eventually added “double-dipping” on patents by charging both a royalty for Qualcomm’s chipsets and a licensing fee for the patented technology. Qualcomm countersued when Apple and its Asian manufacturers stopped paying royalties. Qualcomm recently asserted that Apple owes it $7 billion in royalties already. In September 2018, Qualcomm moved to amend its original countersuit to add the allegation of trade secret violation. Since 2011, Qualcomm shared its trade-secreted source code with Apple to help Apple engineers optimize the integration of Qualcomm’s broadband chipset in iPhones for high-speed connection to cellular networks. In 2016, Apple started using Intel broadband chipsets in some of its iPhones while continuing to use Qualcomm’s as well. However, Qualcomm’s chips allowed for higher connection speeds including next-generation gigabit-per-second speeds while Intel’s lagged behind; some speculate that Intel may even be a full generation behind. In the past, Apple addressed this discrepancy by throttling Qualcomm’s chips to ensure...