Apple and Qualcomm’s lawsuit is about to get serious

After more than a year of vicious accusations and a flurry of lawsuits and counter claims, Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc.’s multibillion-dollar legal dispute is about to get serious.

Hearings in the three most important markets — the U.S., China and Germany — will soon determine whether Apple’s attempt to save itself billions in technology licensing payments by forcing one of the world’s biggest chipmakers to change the way it does business is legal.

Apple may be the hook for $2.5 billion to $4.5 billion in unpaid fees, based on estimates for the amount per phone the company may be charged, a total that could be equivalent to about one-fifth of Qualcomm’s annual revenue. The iPhone maker has argued that Qualcomm uses its ownership of patents that cover the basics of how modern smartphones communicate to extract unfairly high payments and coerce it into buying chips. The chipmaker has countered

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