First, it was patents and royalties, then it was antitrust and unfair competition. Now, the Qualcomm vs. Apple legal war has escalated into a new suit alleging that Apple has shared trade secrets with Qualcomm rival Intel.
The suit, filed today in California state court in San Diego, claims that Apple used its "unprecedented access" to a Qualcomm software license to share info with Intel so it could develop competing chip technology. The suit alleges breach of contract over the software needed to make Qualcomm's chips work with various iPhone components and provide network communications.
The iPhone 7, 8 and X handsets use a combination of Qualcomm and Intel chips. A recent report claims that Apple plans to dump Qualcomm altogether for its next generation of iPhones next year. Previous to the iPhone 7 devices, Apple had used Qualcomm chips exclusively.
The accusations are the latest salvo in the legal wranglings that started in January when Apple filed a $1 billion suit against Qualcomm over licensing of patents and royalty payments. Several other suits and counter-suits have been filed since then.
Qualcomm also was sued by the U.S. FTC and fined by the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission over alleged antitrust violations and unfair competition claims. The Taiwanese fine of $774 million, coupled with the ongoing lawsuits, dropped Qualcomm's profits 90% in Q4 over the same period last year. Earnings were also down 4.5%, but that still beat Wall Street estimates.