It’s been two years since United States Federal Trade Commission sued the multinational chipmaker for misusing its patents to create a monopoly in the market. Qualcomm reciprocated by launching separate lawsuits against Apple Inc. in Germany and the United States. Although the suit by FTC was filed two years ago, the hearing is going to take place from January 4, 2019. Apple has accused Qualcomm of misusing its strength in smartphone component market and forcing Apple to pay irrational and exaggerated licensing fees.
The central issue with the FTC case is Qualcomm’s licensing fees for patented technology which enables multiple data streams to be simultaneously used for same set of radio frequencies. The innovation is not disputed by any of the opponents which is actually a standard in the industry. The dispute is centered in the way by which Qualcomm gets paid. The company charges a percentage of the total selling price of each and every phone sold, which is irrational according to opponents who argue that the fees be set as a percentage of the price of the component that uses its technology rather than the complete product. If this is accepted, Qualcomm’s revenue through licensing fees will drop to one by tenth of its current collection, raising concerns about the company’s current business model.
Qualcomm is arguing that without its technology, any smartphone would be reduced to a regular phone without the internet. Qualcomm doesn’t give licenses to its rivals such as Intel and MediaTek Inc. Qualcomm believes that they don’t need licenses as it gets paid by smartphone manufacturers and has never sued them in the past. FTC alleges that Qualcomm’s refusal to issue licenses to Intel and MediaTek is a part of wider strategy to monopolize the market. As a result, companies like Apple are increasingly depending on Intel for its chips.
Samsung, the world’s largest chipmaker, along with Intel has supported the FTC and has accused Qualcomm of indulging in monopolistic practices to maintain market dominance at the cost of competitiveness in the entire industry. FTC and Apple issue has caused a hurried selloff in Qualcomm’s stock, shaking share market confidence on the Qualcomm’s capacity to charge fees for its patents. Broadcom Ltd, a global semiconductor giant, in February this year had reportedly offered $117 billion to Qualcomm as part of an acquisition deal, the bid turned hostile after FTC issue, only to be thwarted by US government on the grounds of national security.