Setback for Qualcomm: It has to license modem tech to competitors
FTC antitrust lawsuit due for trial next year
A US district judge has made a preliminary ruling that Qualcomm is obliged to license its technologies to its rivals.
Judge Koh's ruling, that Qualcomm must license some of its technologies to other companies pitching modems at the mobile market, included a denial of the request for a delay by the company and the FTC while they pursue settlement talks in the lawsuit.
The commission argued that Qualcomm had voluntarily committed to the FRAND (free and non-discriminatory) licensing requirements of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATUS), and those agreements required it to offer licences to competitors where patents covered standards-essential technology.
The FTC alleged that from 2011 to 2016, Qualcomm had offered Apple discounted licensing on the basis that Cupertino exclusively used its modems, which breached its FRAND commitments.
In the case, Qualcomm argued the TIA/ATUS agreements applied only to mobile device-makers and other OEMs, not to silicon vendors.
Judge Koh wasn't having any of it, noting that: “If a SEP holder could discriminate against modem chip suppliers, a SEP holder could embed its technology into a cellular standard and then prevent other modem chip suppliers from selling modem chips to cellular handset producers.”
Moreover, she wrote, Qualcomm has in the past argued against discriminatory licensing to fend off a patent infringement lawsuit with Ericsson, and in financial presentations has emphasised licences it has secured from other, unnamed, vendors.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in early 2019. ®