By Nate Oh
Qualcomm’s global legal issues continue, as the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) fined the company roughly $773 million (NT$23.4 billion) for illegal licensing and chip pricing practices. This development is yet another antitrust filing levied onto Qualcomm, which has recently seen fines from South Korea (December 2016) and China (February 2015), a lawsuit from the US Federal Trade Commission (January 2017), and investigation and potential non-compliance fines from the European Union.
The official TFTC statement states that Qualcomm withheld products and licensing in order to force clients to agree to its conditions, noting Qualcomm’s numerous standard-essential patents (SEP) and monopoly status in the baseband processor market for the CDMA, WCDMA, and LTE spaces. The TFTC found that these actions and others violated antitrust laws for at least seven years, during which Taiwanese companies paid Qualcomm around NT$400 billion (~$13.2 billion) in licensing fees and $30 billion in baseband processors purchases. Essentially, these findings match the US FTC’s charges of Qualcomm’s “no license, no chips” policy and their refusal to license standard-essential patents.
In addition to the fine, the TFTC is demanding Qualcomm cancel agreements and clauses where competitors were forced to disclose sensitive company data, including prices, product model names, shipments, sales targets/volumes, and customer names.
In the meantime, Qualcomm remains enmeshed in a series of interconnected lawsuits with Apple, with the most recent development occurring just a few months ago.
In response to the TFTC ruling, Qualcomm released their own statement disagreeing with findings and stating plans to appeal the decision. Since appealing against South Korean regulators, this marks the second time Qualcomm is appealing such antitrust fines.
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