Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of smartphone modems and microchips, illegally charges companies sky-high prices to license its technology, Judge Lucy Koh ruled Tuesday.
In a case brought to court in 2017 by the US Federal Trade Commission, District Court Judge Lucy Koh said Qualcomm should not receive a percentage of sales of each phone a company sells; instead, it should receive a much smaller amount based on what Qualcomm technology exists inside the phone. It also must license its patents to rival chipmakers.
“Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition” in key parts of the modem chip market for years, “and harmed rivals, OEMs, and end consumers in the process,” the judge wrote. She added that the company’s lead in developing modem chips for smartphones using 5G, the new generation of cellular technology, madeit likely that behavior would continue.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Qualcomm is expected to appeal the decision. If it is upheld, that could upend the way Qualcomm does business. The tech company, based in San Diego, California, receives several dollars for each phone its technology is in, based on the total price of the phone. Judge Koh ruled that violates US antitrust law.
In addition to the FTC case, Qualcomm faces a class-action lawsuit from consumers asserting similar antitrust claims and seeking billions in damages.