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Apple Just Poached Top Talent From Qualcomm Amid a Legal Dispute

May 30, 2017, 3:25 PM UTC

Apple has hired one of Qualcomm’s top communications chip engineers amid a legal battle over wireless modem royalties.

Esin Terzioglu, who oversaw the engineering organization of Qualcomm’s core communications chip business, announced the move on his LinkedIn page, where it was highlighted by analyst Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research.

“It has been my honor and privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated individuals at Qualcomm where we accomplished great feats as a team (10nm bring up was a doozy and the team did an amazing job bringing the first product to market!!!),” Terzioglu wrote. “I feel privileged for the opportunity to continue my career at Apple. Stay in touch.”

Qualcomm last year began introducing chips at the cutting-edge 10-nanometer scale made in Samsung’s semiconductor factories. The smaller scale, a step down from 14 nm, allows chips like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 for smartphones to do more calculations using less power.

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Fortune contacted Apple for comment and will update this story with any response. Qualcomm declined to comment.

Apple has used Qualcomm wireless modem chips in the iPhone and connected models of the iPad, but the relationship between the two giants of the mobile phone industry has soured over the past year. In January, Apple sued Qualcomm, claiming the chip maker was was unfairly using patents and market dominance to charge excessive royalties. Qualcomm denied it had done anything improper and counter-sued Apple last month for interfering with its business and violating deals between the two companies.

The dispute has led to speculation that Apple (AAPL) will increasingly turn to Intel (INTC) for wireless modems. But Intel’s products, so far, lag the capabilities and speed of Qualcomm’s (QCOM) cutting-edge products.

The hire may be a sign that Apple wants to integrate the wireless modem capability more deeply into its own custom-designed system on a chip, or SoC, that runs the iPhone, according to Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt.

“The data point is the latest in a list of instances suggesting that Apple has plans to develop full SoCs in house for future mobile devices,” McCourt wrote in a note on Tuesday. “The current A series processors lack a baseband modem and Terzioglu’s move seems to suggest that Apple is acquiring the necessary expertise to develop such technology.”

Terzioglu, who has a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford, previously worked at communications chipmaker Broadcom (BRCM) and a memory chip startup called Novelics that was acquired by Mentor Graphics.