Qualcomm to fight antitrust fine upheld by South Korean court

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The South Korean court did side with Qualcomm in part, dismissing the regulator’s claim that the chipmaker’s licensing deals were unfair to smartphone manufacturers. (FierceWireless)

Qualcomm plans to appeal an $873 million antitrust fine that was upheld Wednesday by a South Korean court.

The penalty was originally imposed in 2016 by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) against Qualcomm for anticompetitive business practices related to patent licensing and modem chip sales.

The High Court in Seoul today shot down part of Qualcomm’s appeal, saying the technology giant abused its dominant market position and exerted significant unfair influence over handset makers, according to Reuters.

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“We disagree with the Court’s decision to accept parts of the KFTC order and will immediately seek to appeal those provisions to the Korea Supreme Court,” said Don Rosenberg, EVP and general counsel of Qualcomm, in an emailed statement.

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Still, the South Korean court did side with Qualcomm in part, dismissing the regulator’s claim that the chipmaker’s licensing deals were unfair to smartphone makers, which means Qualcomm won’t have to renegotiate those agreements.

“We are gratified that the Court rejected the KFTC’s finding that our licensing terms are not fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory, and reversed the KFTC’s remedial order to renegotiate those licenses,” continued Rosenberg.

Qualcomm is also fighting antitrust claims in the U.S. with an ongoing case brought on by the Federal Trade Commission. The European Commission meanwhile also levied fines against Qualcomm this year, one for what authorities called predatory pricing of its 3G baseband chipsets. Qualcomm appealed that decision.

Qualcomm is the leading chipset supplier to many of the world’s largest handset makers, and has powered the first wave of 5G smartphones in the U.S., including ones from Samsung and LG. Apple is expected to release a 5G handset next year, likely powered by Qualcomm.

Just this week the tech company unveiled its latest 5G Snapdragon mobile platforms, including its flagship Snapdragon 865, which the company said will help lead and scale both 5G and artificial intelligence in 2020. Full details of the platform are expected to be released today. 

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The likelihood that either side in the T-Mobile/Sprint case decide to appeal? Low, according to New Street Research, in part due to spectrum.