Qualcomm at war with Korean antitrust watchdog to avoid huge penalty

- Adrian Ungureanu

Snapdragon chipset maker, Qualcomm filed complaints against the Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) after it imposed the American tech giant with its largest-ever fine of 1.03 trillion won ($903 million) for violating the nation’s competition laws in December.

On Dec. 28, the FTC fined Qualcomm and its two affiliates for breaching the nation’s competition laws by coercing smartphone and chipmakers to accept unfair patent licensing deals.

According to the agency’s finding, Qualcomm arm-twisted smartphone makers, including Samsung, LG and Apple, to purchase a bunch of processor and network connection licenses, including some they don’t need, and charged excessive royalty fees.

The chip company was also found to have shared less of its standard essential patents, which should be offered under non-discriminatory terms to any counterpart, while offering them to a selective few that agreed to unfair contract conditions.

It is expected that Qualcomm will make all-out efforts to win the case, hiring large law firms around the world. The company has been under scrutiny on similar charges in the US, Europe and China.

Sources said the antitrust FTC is also setting up a task force team to deal with the fierce legal battle. Some big law firms are expected to join the case to represent the agency.