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U.S. Supreme Court rejects Apple’s appeal: not eligible to sue again after settlement with Qualcomm

The U.S. Supreme Court today reportedly rejected a patent appeal by Apple Inc. against Qualcomm Inc. that asked a judge to rule that two of Qualcomm’s smartphone patents were invalid.

The Supreme Court judge said that since the two companies had reached a settlement agreement, Apple no longer had standing to pursue the matter. And Apple had previously argued that the settlement agreement allowed the company to file another lawsuit.

In 2017, Qualcomm sued Apple in San Diego (Calif.) federal court, claiming that its iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch infringed on a variety of Qualcomm’s mobile technology patents. Apple challenged the validity of two of the patents before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

In 2019, the two companies reached a settlement, signing a multibillion-dollar agreement that allows Apple to continue using Qualcomm’s chips in its iPhones. The settlement also included licenses to tens of thousands of Qualcomm patents, including the two at issue, but allowed the PTAB’s case to proceed.

The PTAB later ruled in Qualcomm’s favor, but Apple appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Last year, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s appeal. Apple then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Apple told the Supreme Court that the company will remain at risk of litigation after the parties’ settlement agreement expires in 2025. If the settlement period is extended, it will be at risk of litigation in 2027. Apple said that Qualcomm has already sued (Apple) once and has not committed not to do so again. In addition, Qualcomm usually initiates patent litigation aggressively, based on its historical record.

Qualcomm, on the other hand, asked the judge to dismiss the appeal, saying Apple had not suffered any specific injury and therefore did not have “proper legal standing” to appeal. In a brief issued in May 2011, the President of the United States also urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal.

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