SCOTUS Won’t Review Apple-Qualcomm Intellectual Property Standing Dispute

Nine months after Apple Inc. asked the Supreme Court to take up its case against Qualcomm Inc. over patent infringement and validity, the nine-judge panel declined without explanation. The certiorari petition’s denial leaves in place a Federal Circuit ruling on the doctrine of standing, which Apple and other critics claimed increases the difficulty of bringing legitimate patent challenges.

Apple sought to appeal the determination that it lacked constitutional standing to bring the suit. Because a ruling on the validity of the technology patents would not reduce its licensing payments to Qualcomm, the court said there was no actual controversy. The dispute came to the Federal Circuit after the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s review board resolved an inter partes review challenge in Qualcomm’s favor.

In addition, the Solicitor General advocated for denial of certiorari while several amici curiae backed Apple in the dispute.

Some of those amici warned that the appellate court’s narrowing of the standing doctrine flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent and frustrates the public’s interest in eliminating invalid patents. From a policy perspective, the non-profit amici said that the decision will impair technological innovation and economic development, especially in the start-up and small business context.

For its part, Qualcomm fought the petition, arguing that Apple’s appeal presented no important or unsettled legal issues. The chip maker said that the most recent and relevant case, ModernaTx Inc. v. Arbutus Biopharma Corp., reiterates that a patent portfolio licensee can have standing to challenge an individual patent in the portfolio, depending on the facts specific to that case. In this instance, Qualcomm and the Solicitor General argued that the Federal Circuit made a fact-specific decision that the Supreme Court ought not disturb.

Apple is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Fish & Richardson P.C., and Qualcomm by Baker Botts L.L.P.