Date
17 January 2019
If the US FTC wins an antitrust case against Qualcomm, the chipmaker could face fines and be forced to change some of its business practices related to patent licensing. Photo: Bloomberg
If the US FTC wins an antitrust case against Qualcomm, the chipmaker could face fines and be forced to change some of its business practices related to patent licensing. Photo: Bloomberg

Qualcomm evidence ruled inadmissible in US antitrust case

A federal judge in the US on Thursday ruled that evidence provided by chip supplier Qualcomm that major phone makers like Apple have moved to competing suppliers like Intel cannot be used to fight allegations Qualcomm acted to preserve a monopoly on some mobile phone chips, Reuters reports.

The Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that Qualcomm’s patent licensing and chip sale practices were anticompetitive and sought to preserve a monopoly on so-called premium LTE modem chips, which help mobile phones connect to wireless data network.

At the hearing in San Jose, an attorney for the FTC said there are “still discussions going on” with Qualcomm about settling the case, but a Qualcomm attorney said there was “no news” about the status of the talks. The two sides disclosed they were in talks in October.

The case, which began in 2017, is headed to trial in January, but the cutoff for the two sides to gather evidence ended in March, the report said.

Since March, Qualcomm has disclosed that Apple completely stopped using its modems in its newest iPhones and switched to chips from Intel. Qualcomm has also broadened its use of a lower-cost licensing model for technology for the next generation of mobile data networks, with several phone makers already signing the deals.

Qualcomm argued in court papers that the new market conditions would likely show that it does not have the monopoly on modem chips that the FTC alleges.

But Judge Lucy Koh rejected the request in a pre-trial decision, saying that the case was about Qualcomm’s business conduct and not its market power, the report said.

“Qualcomm does not argue that any post-discovery evidence shows a change in Qualcomm’s own business conduct. All of the proposed evidence relates to alleged shifts in Qualcomm’s market power,” Koh wrote in her decision.

The decision is the second pre-trial blow Judge Koh has dealt to Qualcomm. Last month, she ruled that Qualcomm must grant patent licenses to its technology to rival chipmakers if they request it.

If the FTC wins its case against Qualcomm, regulators could impose fines and force the company to change some of its business practices around patent licensing, Reuters noted.

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CG/RC

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