Legal Translation for Intellectual Property Litigation

Translating an IP Dispute that Knows No Borders

We’ve blogged about legal translation services for IP infringement cases. There is an interesting contradiction in our world right now. In the midst of a global pandemic, the significance of borders – particularly the demarcation between individual States of the United States – has taken on an enlarged significance as States and nations bid against one another for much-needed personal protective equipment for health care workers.

At the same time, in the world of intellectual property (IP), nation-state borders are less significant because an international intellectual property dispute can play out all over the world.

A great example of an intellectual property dispute that was truly international was the years-long battle between Qualcomm and the electronics giant Apple. In a nutshell, Apple has been using Qualcomm’s innovations for years to produce its world-famous iPhone. However, Apple was engaging in several stall tactics to avoid paying Qualcomm for the use of Qualcomm’s patents.

Accordingly, in this article we will discuss Qualcomm’s dispute with Apple because it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of how the phone in your pocket made it there in the first place. Moreover, the truly international nature of the Qualcomm-Apple legal dispute demonstrates just how important legal translation services are in the world of IP.

Indeed, without the ability of companies to confront one another in courts throughout the world, technological innovation would grind to halt. If, after reading this article, you have more questions about how quality legal translation services can help your firm, we invite you to contact us at All Language Alliance, Inc. Our number is 303-470-9555. We will help you translate legal and technical documents for your international intellectual property cases and provide technically savvy remote and in-person deposition interpreters.

Qualcomm Alleged “Efficient Infringement” Against Apple

Stripped to its essence, Qualcomm alleged that Apple improperly infringed on its technological innovations. Those innovations, in fact, were able to put the “smart” in smart phone. Without the technology developed by Qualcomm, an Apple iPhone would not be able to function as it currently does.

Thus, the basic case Qualcomm made against Apple was that Apple used Qualcomm’s patents without appropriately compensating it for that use. Yet, there is a very interesting added wrinkle here, involving a concept called “efficient infringement.”

Rather than a classic IP conflict in which two companies argue over who developed what type of technology, the notion of “efficient infringement” assumes that the basic patent infringement has occurred. In the Qualcomm case, there actually appeared to be little dispute that Apple was indeed using Qualcomm’s intellectual property.

Apple did not argue that it had some creative part to play in creating the technology used in an iPhone. Instead, Apple simply made the choice to infringe on Qualcomm’s patents with the knowledge that it would be far cheaper to ultimately pay a court-ordered judgment for infringement than to pay the full amount of the patent up front, hence the name “efficient infringement.”

The practice of “efficient infringement” is not specific to the Qualcomm-Apple dispute either. The practice seems to be increasingly common on the international intellectual property landscape, particularly with high-tech giants like Apple and Google. Basically, “efficient infringement” is the high-tech version of illegally dumping your garbage when you know that the fine for the illegal dumping will be less than the cost of properly disposing of the garbage.

Apple’s Response Regarding “Holding Up” Innovation

In order to fight back against Qualcomm’s allegations of efficient infringement, Apple had a few arrows in its own quiver. Namely, Apple pushed a “patent holdup” theory against Qualcomm. The “patent holdup” theory suggests that (i) patent owners will systematically overcharge manufacturers for licenses to their patents, and (ii) the accumulation of many patent owners similarly overcharging will slow down or strangle innovation because manufacturers cannot pay for the licenses and still remain in business.

Thus, the stage was set in the Qualcomm-Apple dispute. On the one hand, Apple was accused of improperly using patents without paying for them, and Qualcomm was accused of charging unreasonably high fees for its patents thereby leveraging monopolistic power.

A Battle That Spanned the Globe

The Qualcomm-Apple dispute did not just play out in one court or one country. Indeed, that would make little sense because the products manufactured by Apple are used worldwide. Accordingly, Qualcomm won iPhone bans in Germany and in China based on patent violations. Further, Qualcomm won a lawsuit in the United States that put a high price on a few of Qualcomm’s patents.

Yet, Apple was able to convince the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – two significant IP regulators – that Qualcomm’s alleged “patent holdup” conduct seriously threatened the progress of innovation. Thus, an ITC judge, back in early 2019, allowed Apple products to be exported despite Apple’s patent infringement. Also, the FTC was on the brink of coming to the same conclusion.

Global IP Crisis Averted with a Settlement

The number of court victories that started falling into the Qualcomm column appeared to put pressure on Apple to finally settle the two-year dispute that spawned litigation across the globe. As part of the settlement, Apple agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to Qualcomm, and the parties agreed to a six-year global patent licensing agreement. Qualcomm, for its part, would supply parts to Apple for a number of years into the future.

Litigating an IP Dispute Throughout the World

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Qualcomm-Apple battle is how the two tech giants could logistically fight each other on different fronts in different countries. The only way that is possible is with a reliable, professional legal translation service. Each lawsuit, each item of discovery, and each contact with a foreign official, whether it was a German judge, Chinese court, or American regulator, calls for the assistance of a qualified legal translator. That is particularly true when you are dealing with highly detailed, highly technical information about cell phone technology.

If you are looking to litigate an international intellectual property dispute, then you need the services of a top-notch legal translation service with experience in providing remote and in-person deposition interpreting services and legal document translation in Chinese, German, Portuguese, Korean, Norwegian, French, Swedish, Thai, and other languages. Contact us at All Language Alliance, Inc. today because we are that top-notch legal translation service. Let our legal translators, remote deposition interpreters for virtual depos and in-person deposition interpreters for live depos help you ensure that your international IP litigation goes smoothly.

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