The Supreme Court won't hear the Apple-Qualcomm patent case

Apple claimed Qualcomm might use two patents to sue again.

Cherlynn Low/Engadget

Apple and Qualcomm may have ended most of their feuding in 2019, but the fight might not be over just yet. The Verge reports that the Supreme Court has denied Apple's request for a hearing to potentially invalidate two Qualcomm patents that played key roles in 2017 attempts to ban Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone sales over allegedly infringing modem technology. The court didn't explain why it rejected the request, but a Justice Department amicus brief from May argued that there was no evidence to indicate the patents were harming Apple's business.

While the companies struck a six-year licensing deal to settle their main dispute, the agreement let a US Patent and Trademark Office case continue involving the two patents. Apple lost an attempt to invalidate the patents with the USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and again failed when a Federal Circuit court tossed out Apple's appeal request based on the settlement. When Apple went to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department filed its supporting brief opposing the request.

Apple claimed in its request that Qualcomm might use the patents to sue again once the licensing deal expires in 2025 or (if extended) 2027. It's not certain what either company will do next. We've asked both Apple and Qualcomm for comment. The landscape may change significantly within the next few years, however. Apple is rumored to be ditching Qualcomm in favor of using its own 5G modems as soon as 2023, and it's not yet clear how that might affect the current truce.