Federal Judge Rules Against Qualcomm in Antitrust Lawsuit


US District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California ruled late Tuesday against Qualcomm in an antitrust suit filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The suit, originally filed in 2017, aimed to end what the FTC described as “anti-competitive business practices” on the part of Qualcomm. Qualcomm is a major producer of various computer chips oftentimes used in the production of cellphones. Qualcomm’s chips were used by Apple, Samsung and others to allow their cellphones to connect to cellular data networks and are expected to be used to connect to the new 5G networks carriers are starting to roll out this year. Qualcomm enforced a number of conditions on the purchase of its chips including separate license agreements and threats that the purchase of chips other than Qualcomm would result in termination of updates and technical support.

Koh ruled in favor of the FTC, and, while she did not accept the FTC’s remedies as written, she did issue specific injunctions against Qualcomm. Koh noted that the standard of remedy in antitrust suits is to issue injunctions to “unfetter a market from anticompetitive conduct” and to issue such injunctions “only if the wrongs are ongoing or likely to recur.” Koh agreed with Qualcomm that the FTC’s injunctions were too vague and not necessary to “unfetter the market” but issued five injunctions of her own including a requirement that Qualcomm submit to compliance and monitoring procedures with the FTC for the next seven years. Qualcomm has stated that it plans to appeal the ruling.

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