January 3, 2019 / 2:21 PM / 4 months ago

Qualcomm enforces ban to halt some Apple iPhone sales in Germany

(Reuters) - U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) took steps to enforce a court order banning the sale of some iPhone models in Germany following a patent dispute, a move that will likely see Apple Inc (AAPL.O) pull those models from its German stores.

A spokesman for Gravis, Germany’s biggest reseller of Apple products which is owned by telecoms company Freenet (FNTGn.DE), said on Friday that it still had all Apple products on sale, including the iPhone 7 and 8 models.

The German case is Qualcomm’s third major effort to secure a ban on Apple’s lucrative iPhones over patent infringement allegations after similar moves in the United States and China, and is part of a global patent spat between the two companies.

Qualcomm posted bonds of 1.34 billion euros ($1.5 billion) on Thursday, as required for the German court order to come into effect. The court found on Dec. 20 that Apple had infringed Qualcomm patents on power-saving technology used in smartphones.

Apple said in a statement after the verdict last month that it would pull iPhone 7 and 8 models from its own 15 retail stores in Germany during an appeal process once the order came into force. However, it also said it would continue to offer all of its phones at thousands of retail and carrier locations across Germany, a direct contradiction to Qualcomm’s interpretation of the order.

A spokeswoman for the Munich regional court told Reuters on Friday that Apple had appealed the court’s Dec. 20 ruling.

Apple, which had also said it planned to appeal the court decision, declined to comment on Qualcomm’s most recent move on Friday, only referring to its statement after the verdict.

According to the court order, Apple has to stop the sale, offer for sale and importation for sale of all infringing iPhones in Germany.

The court also ordered Apple to recall the affected iPhones from third-party resellers in Germany, according to a statement by Qualcomm.

Kai Ruting, a German lawyer not involved in the case, said the court order was directed at Apple entities rather than third parties.

“These third parties are still free to sell the (affected) iPhones, and they sell the majority of iPhones,” Ruting said, adding, “the question of a settlement will be driven by the U.S. litigation and not the German case.”

Ruting said that Apple had strong arguments for the German court’s ruling to be reversed on appeal. If that happens, Qualcomm’s bond will be used to compensate Apple, he said.

Apple’s announced intention to pull iPhones from stores in Germany contrasts with how it has handled a court decision in China, where there was a much broader ban on iPhone sales after a court ruled the devices violated Qualcomm’s patents. Apple has continued to sell phones in China, saying it believed its phones were legal in the country.

Still, Apple also pushed a software update to address concerns over whether it was in compliance with Chinese courts.

FILE PHOTO: Customers stand in line at the Apple store in Berlin, September 19, 2014. REUTERS/Hannibal

Qualcomm has said those software updates were insufficient and that Apple must still withdraw its phones. Apple had filed a request for the Chinese court to reconsider its decision, but no outcome has been announced.

($1 = 0.8800 euros)

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Joern Poltz in Munich, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Petra Haverkamp in Berlin; Editing by Bernadette Baum/Rosalba O'Brien/Susan Fenton

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