Qualcomm found violating antitrust laws in Californian court
Back in 2017, the United States Federal Trade Commission was charging Qualcomm with multiple antitrust violations such as refusal to follow FRAND practices on licensed patents, forcing OEMs to use its modems by increasing competing modem prices via royalties, and preventing the adoption of competing telecommunications technologies. Just recently U.S. District Court judge Lucy Koh from California ruled in favor of the FTC and outlined five remedies that Qualcomm needs to undertake, but the decision is not final and Qualcomm immediately appealed to a higher court.
Judge Koh came to the conclusion that “Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition in the CDMA and premium LTE modem chip markets for years, and harmed rivals, OEMs, and end consumers in the process.” If the ruling still stands after the appeal, Qualcomm will be required to respect the following five remedies:
- QuWindows 10 reportedly up and running on a developer's OnePlus 6Talcomm must not condition the supply of modem chips on a customer’s patent license status and Qualcomm must negotiate or renegotiate license terms with customers in good faith under conditions free from the threat of lack of access to or discriminatory provision of modem chip supply or associated technical support or access to software.
- Qualcomm must make exhaustive SEP licenses available to modem-chip suppliers on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms and to submit, as necessary, to arbitral or judicial dispute resolution to determine such terms.
- Qualcomm may not enter express or de facto exclusive dealing agreements for the supply of modem chips.
- Qualcomm may not interfere with the ability of any customer to communicate with a government agency about a potential law enforcement or regulatory matter.
- In order to ensure Qualcomm’s compliance with the above remedies, the Court orders Qualcomm to submit to compliance and monitoring procedures for a period of seven years. Specifically, Qualcomm shall report to the FTC on an annual basis Qualcomm’s compliance with the above remedies ordered by the Court.
Qualcomm’s appeal will be handled by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court, and if it decides the case is worthy of a new hearing, the case could go on for a few more years. Judge Koh’s ruling was most likely swayed by the recent Apple / Qualcomm settlement that forced Intel to exit the 5G modem market. Limiting Qualcomm’s monopoly would open up the telecommunications market for more competitive prices from companies like Samsung, MediaTek and Huawei.