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Koh-no! Silicon Lucy blocks Qualcomm from wriggling out of FTC's chip monopoly trial

Tell it to the jury, judge rules

By Shaun Nichols, 27 Jun 2017

Qualcomm will have to face trial against America's trade watchdog over alleged price gouging on its chip designs.

Judge Lucy Koh has shot down the California company's motion to dismiss complaints from the FTC over its licensing policies.

The FTC has accused Qualcomm of dirty dealings against Apple when it forced the Cupertino giant to pay excessive rates for patent licenses and exclusivity deals when it bought chips for the iPhone.

Qualcomm petitioned Koh in April for a dismissal of the case, arguing that the FTC had no legit arguments that it violated federal laws. The San Jose US District Court judge said the trade watchdog has more than enough material to present the case in front of a jury.

"The Court finds that FTC has adequately alleged that, under the circumstances presented here, Qualcomm violated a duty to deal in refusing to license its FRAND-encumbered SEPs to its modem chips competitors," Koh said.

"Thus, FTC has adequately alleged that Qualcomm's refusal to license its SEPs to its modem chips competitors is independent anticompetitive conduct that violates [Section 2] of the Sherman Act, and thus violates [Section 5] [PDF] of the FTC Act."

The case is one of several facing Qualcomm over its patent licensing policies. Apple and others have argued that the chip designer has been strong-arming customers into paying excessive fees for patent licenses on technologies they don't actually use in order to obtain chips.

Apple has gone as far as enlisting its partners in the fight by ordering them to skip out on payments, costing Qualcomm hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees it believes are owed. ®

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