Qualcomm CEO 'would hate to be on the other side' in legal fight with Apple

Qualcomm Inc. CEO Steve Mollenkopf speaks during a keynote address at CES 2017 on January 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Less than a month after being served from Apple, CEO Steven Mollenkopf says he wouldn't want to have to argue the iPhone maker's side of the case.

claimed in January that Qualcomm is receiving royalties for mobile technologies that "they have nothing to do with." One-third of Qualcomm's revenue comes from licensing its communications standards to other companies, smartphone makers in particular.

Mollenkopf said on Wednesday that Qualcomm has 300-plus licenses, including 120 signed in China in the last two years.

"It's tough to come in and say that this is not a solid business," Mollenkopf said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. "I'd hate to be on the other side of that argument."

Qualcomm has been through this in the past. Mollenkopf highlighted a similar dispute with Nokia a decade ago.

The big difference with Apple is that it's a much bigger and more dominant company than Nokia ever was. However, so is Qualcomm, which in addition to being a key component in practically every smartphone, is making a play for the broader world of connected devices and Internet of Things.

"It's pretty difficult to look at Qualcomm and say I don't want to work with them some time in the future," Mollenkopf said.

In the end, Mollenkopf said he prefers that the matter be settled out of court, as was the case with Nokia, and he expects that's what will happen.

He also said we shouldn't expect to read too much about the case as it develops, at least not from the Qualcomm side.

"You're probably not going to see us argue this out in press," he said.