Apple files $1 billion lawsuit against major iPhone partner

Apple just did the unthinkable: The tech giant is suing Qualcomm, which makes the iPhone's baseband processor — basically the smartphone's modem for connecting to mobile networks — to the tune of $1 billion.

First reported by CNBC, the lawsuit is related to another legal action from earlier this week, when the FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against the chipmaker, alleging Qualcomm was using its patents to strong-arm competitors into paying exorbitant royalties, even for devices that didn't use Qualcomm-made modems.

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Apple was specifically cited in that lawsuit, which also alleges Qualcomm pressured Apple in specific ways to guarantee it would use its modem tech exclusively for a five-year period, from 2011 to 2016, essentially shutting out every other manufacturer of baseband processors from the world's most popular smartphone. (With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple began producing some iPhones with Intel modems.)

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In Apple's statement about the lawsuit, the company says Qualcomm has been charging royalties "for technologies they have nothing to do with." Apple casts Qualcomm as a lazy company that no longer innovates because its business is built around "older, legacy technologies" and that it collects money "for no reason" — essentially accusing the chipmaker of being a patent troll.

Apple specifically accuses Qualcomm of withholding "nearly $1 billion" in payments to Apple because Apple had cooperated with "law enforcement agencies" tasked with investigating the chipmaker. Those investigations are what likely led to the FTC lawsuit.

Apple also gave a little detail on just how large Qualcomm's royalties are. According to the company's statement, the royalties Qualcomm collects on the iPhone are five times those of all other "cellular patent licensors" combined.

This story is developing...