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US Appeals Court Reverses Antitrust Ruling in FTC vs Qualcomm

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It’s been over three years since the United States FTC had charged Qualcomm with antitrust violations over cellular modem patents and business practices. That suit …
It’s been over three years since the United States FTC had charged Qualcomm with antitrust violations over cellular modem patents and business practices. That suit ultimately received a ruling in May of 2019 against Qualcomm, resulting in an injunction for Qualcomm to renegotiate its licensing agreements with its customers. Qualcomm had subsequently appealed the ruling, putting the order on hold, and today, a bit over a year later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has finally issued an opinion, reversing and vacating the injunction, resulting in a win for Qualcomm at this moment in time. The appeals court’s opinion centres around the FTC’s use of anti-trust law to hold Qualcomm accountable for some of its controversial business practices in how it handles licensing of its patent portfolio and its “no license, no chip” mode of operation. The opinion attacks the original judgment in that the arguments presented do not fall under the umbrella of anti-trust law violations, and instead it being a matter of contract and patent law. The original charge revolved around Qualcomm’s supposed refusal to license cellular patents to competitor chip vendors, with the company countering this accusation that its patents only apply to OEM products, not the chips of components themselves: “Qualcomm argues that it has no antitrust duty to deal with its rivals, and in any case OEM-level licensing is consistent with Qualcomm’s SSO commitments because only OEM products (i.e., cellphones, tablets, etc.

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