FTC drops Qualcomm antitrust fight

Gavel with scales of justice in background
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended a long-running battle with Qualcomm over the company’s patent licensing practices.(William_Potter / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended a long-running battle with Qualcomm over the company’s patent licensing practices, revealing it would not take the case to the Supreme Court.

Explaining its decision in a statement, acting FTC chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter cited “significant headwinds facing the Commission in this matter.” However, she insisted a lower court ruling that “Qualcomm violated the antitrust laws was entirely correct and that the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise.”

Slaughter highlighted concerns about the potential for anticompetitive behavior in relation to standard setting, stating the regulator would “closely monitor conduct in this arena” going forward.

RELATED: U.S. district judge sides with FTC, rules Qualcomm violated antitrust laws

Qualcomm EVP and general counsel Don Rosenberg told Fierce it was “pleased that the case is over and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision stands.”

“The Ninth Circuit acknowledged our historic contributions to the industry and reminded us all that hypercompetitive behavior should be encouraged… Now, more than ever, we must preserve the fundamental incentives to innovate and compete.”

The spat between the FTC and Qualcomm has been ongoing since January 2017, when the regulator accused the company of using anticompetitive tactics to maintain a monopoly in the baseband processor market.

A district court ruled in the FTC’s favor in May 2019, issuing a verdict which would have required Qualcomm to renegotiate its licensing agreements with existing customers. However, that judgement was overturned by an appeals court in August 2020.

An appeal to the Supreme Court was the FTC’s final option to pursue its case against Qualcomm, after the appeals court in October 2020 declined to review its ruling.