Qualcomm Facing Off With FTC in Antitrust Trial That Kicks Off Today

With the intense ongoing legal battle between Qualcomm and Apple, it's easy to forget that Qualcomm is also facing an FTC antitrust lawsuit for using anticompetitive tactics to remain the main supplier for baseband processors for smartphones.

The FTC hasn't forgotten, though, and FTC lawyers are in a Northern California courtroom before well-known judge Lucy Koh, who also presided over the Apple-Samsung legal fight.

qualcomm iphone 7
Lawyers for Qualcomm, the FTC, Apple, and other manufacturers have gathered as the trial commences, with the FTC set to argue that Qualcomm refused to provide chips to OEMs without a patent license, refused to license its technology to rivals, and set exclusive deals with Apple.

Manufacturers like Huawei and Lenovo will testify that Qualcomm threatened to disrupt their chip supply during licensing negotiations, forcing them into signing deals.

The FTC first filed a complaint against Qualcomm in January 2017, which was actually the catalyst for Apple's own lawsuit against the company just a few weeks later.

In that complaint, the FTC said that Qualcomm uses its position and its portfolio of patents to impose anticompetitive supply and licensing terms on cell phone manufacturers, impacting its competitors.

Part of the complaint addressed a deal with Apple in which Qualcomm required Apple to exclusively use its modems from 2011 to 2016 in exchange for lower patent royalties. Qualcomm is also accused of refusing to license its standard-essential (FRAND) patents to competing suppliers and implementing a no license, no chips policy to drive up royalty payments beyond what's fair.

Qualcomm attempted to get the FTC's lawsuit against it dismissed, but in June, Judge Koh ruled that the lawsuit would proceed on the basis that the FTC adequately demonstrated that anticompetitive tactics were being used by Qualcomm.

In its defense, Qualcomm has claimed the FTC is using a "flawed legal theory" and has misconceptions about the mobile technology industry. "We look forward to defending our business in federal court, where we are confident we will prevail on the merits," Qualcomm said in a statement in January 2017.

As the FTC trial begins, Apple and Qualcomm's legal battle has also been escalating. As of today, Apple has pulled the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 in Germany after Qualcomm won a preliminary injunction in the country.

Qualcomm also won an import ban on older iPhone models in China, which Apple sidestepped through a software update that addressed functionality said to infringe on Qualcomm patents.

Top Rated Comments

jarman92 Avatar
27 months ago

Their engineers developed the technology. Qualcomm spent the $$$ developing it. Why not? Sounds like you are advocating some form of technology socialism. However, I am not aware of FRAND, so if there is something universal they are supposed to be abiding by and they have been blatantly violating that, my opinion might change.

Qualcomm should get paid for the use of their tech, but FRAND requires that companies license standards-essential patents at Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory rates. Qualcomm requires manufacturers to use their chips—which they are paid for per item—and additionally pay Qualcomm royalties for the use of their patents. So these companies are paying Qualcomm twice for the same thing, and at rates that companies claim are many times higher than reasonable.

In Apple's case, things are a little more complicated. There was some sort of scheme where Qualcomm required Apple exclusively purchase their chips in exchange for the "right" to also license their patents (lol), but Qualcomm would give Apple rebates for the chip purchases because they're such a big customer. Then Qualcomm withheld the rebates once Apple started cooperating with regulatory agencies looking into Qualcomm's obviously illegal business practices.

Essentially, Qualcomm has been handsomely rewarded by getting their tech adopted into wireless standards (3G, LTE, now 5G, etc.). In exchange, they are required to license that tech at fair rates (FRAND) to other companies. Instead of doing that, Qualcomm extorts manufacturers by threatening to withhold their essential IP unless they also purchase Qualcomm chips and promise not to buy competitor's chips (or develop their own). Any company looking to make a product that connects to the internet must either buy Qualcomm or shut down. This is stifling innovation in order to line Qualcomm's pockets.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Solomani Avatar
27 months ago
Hope that Qualcomm gets stomped.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jarman92 Avatar
27 months ago
I love this: "Qualcomm has claimed the FTC ... has misconceptions about the mobile technology industry."

I.e. "the FTC just doesn't understand we should be allowed to extort everyone to maximize our profits!"

Well, they have the technology and patents. So why can they not wield that power? Unless they stole technology, it's their technology to control. If Apple et. al don't want to be held hostage, get creative and find another solution. I admit that I am not on top of all of the details, but I suspect that Apple and others may apply the same control over their technology and patents.

Great words to live by..."they have power so I guess everyone should just roll over and give up!" Just because Qualcomm has some patents doesn't mean they can extort the rest of the smartphone/tech industry; that's what FRAND is for.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jarman92 Avatar
27 months ago

If Apple using their Technology without paying for it is what you describe as not ordering anything from them in the future then you may be right. However. We all sit up and complain when China is accused of stealing Technology and rightly so. Well guess what Apple is using someone else IP and trying to get away without paying for it.

Of course that's not what's happening. Apple has always paid Qualcomm for their tech, but they don't want to pay them twice: once for the chip and again for the tech inside the chip. Qualcomm's entire business model is illegal, and clearly the FTC (and numerous other regulatory agencies in multiple countries) agrees.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
The Man Avatar
27 months ago

However, I am not aware of FRAND, so if there is something universal they are supposed to be abiding by and they have been blatantly violating that, my opinion might change.

Read into what FRAND means. Putting your patents into creating an industry standard means you agree to certain ways of handling your IP. Qualcomm agreed, but thus far have not acted according to FRAND rules.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
27 months ago

Why?

Why, read the article, "using anticompetitive tactics"
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
Apple TV Ray Light 2 Triad

Apple Extends Free Apple TV+ Trials Until July

Friday January 15, 2021 10:50 am PST by
Apple is once again planning to extend its free Apple TV+ trial subscriptions, this time until July. When Apple TV+ launched in November 2019, Apple offered free Apple TV+ subscriptions to those who purchased a new Apple device in or after September 2019. Those free subscriptions were set to expire in November 2020, but in October 2020, Apple announced that it was extending free trials...
pat gelsinger intel

Incoming Intel CEO Derides Company's Inability to 'Deliver Better Products' Than Apple's M1 Chip

Friday January 15, 2021 6:17 am PST by
Incoming Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has said that the company must "deliver better products" than Apple, which he described as a "lifestyle company," and says that Intel's best days are "in front of it" (via The Oregonian). Speaking at an Intel all-hands meeting yesterday, Gelsinger derisively implied that Apple is merely a "lifestyle company," so Intel must be able to surpass its technology: ...
mac pro mini feature

Apple Working on Two New Mac Pro Desktops, One of Which Will Be Reminiscent of Power Mac G4 Cube

Friday January 15, 2021 10:23 am PST by
Apple is developing two versions of the Mac Pro to succeed the Mac Pro that was first released in December 2019, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The first updated Mac Pro is a direct successor to the current Mac Pro and it will use the same design. It may also be equipped with Intel processors rather than Apple silicon chips, and it could be one of the sole machines in the Mac...
macbook pro 16 inch thunderbolt

Bloomberg: Next-Generation MacBook Pro to Offer Improved Displays, Faster Charging Over MagSafe

Thursday January 14, 2021 11:36 pm PST by
Following today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlining major changes for the next-generation MacBook Pro models coming in the third quarter of this year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has weighed in with his own report corroborating some of the details but seemingly differing a bit on others. First, Gurman shares more details on the return of MagSafe charging to the MacBook Pro, indicating...