Qualcomm left without key figure in Apple battle as president jumps ship

President of Qualcomm’s licensing division Derek Aberle has handed in his notice. As the Qualcomm executive leading the ongoing legal battle with Apple, the timing of Aberle’s exit is questionable to say the least. After 17 years at the company Aberle will leave for good in December, following a four-month handover to current QTL head Alex Rogers.

A former lawyer, Aberle has been on Qualcomm’s executive team since 2008 and played a crucial part in recent licensing negotiations with the Chinese government and local manufacturers. Over the last nine months, Aberle has taken a front seat in Qualcomm’s legal battle with Apple. 

Qualcomm has slapped Apple with a counter-lawsuit after the iPhone maker took the chip manufacturer to court for breaching an agreement between the two firms. Apple accused the chip manufacturer of overcharging them and refusing to pay a whopping $1 billion in promised rebates. However, the legal wrangling has now taken a sudden U-turn, with Qualcomm coming out swimming and counter-suing Apple. The chip manufacturer alleged that Apple has ‘encouraged regulatory attacks’ on its business by making ‘false statements’ around the world.

After filing its lawsuit with the District Court in Southern California, a Qualcomm spokesman said that Apple continuously attempted to prevent the chip manufacturer from drawing comparison between the Qualcomm-powered iPhones and its superior operating power. "It (Apple) has launched a global attack on Qualcomm and is attempting to use its enormous market power to coerce unfair and unreasonable license terms from Qualcomm," a Qualcomm spokesman said. The chipmaker also claims that Apple interfered in its agreements with licensees that manufacture iPhones and iPads.

Apple has remained defiant in its position, reiterating its stance that Qualcomm has overcharged royalties and used Apple technology not related to agreed patents. As well as filing a lawsuit in the US, Apple is also suing the chipmaker through the courts in Beijing and is seeking to recoup 1 billion yuan ($145.32 million) in damages, according to Beijing’s Intellectual Property Court. 

Although the departure comes in the midst of litigation in which billions of dollars are at stake for Qualcomm, the tone of the announcement suggested his exit was amicable. “I want to thank Derek for the vision, creativity, dedication, and judgment he brought to the company and wish him all the best in the future,” Mollenkopf said. Meanwhile, Aberle said he was ‘very proud to have been a part of [Qualcomm’s] tradition of innovation, and of all that we’ve been able to accomplish during my tenure’.

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