Back in 2017, Apple attempted to break away from Qualcomm, filing a $1 billion lawsuit and accusing the company of anti-competitive practices with its licensing agreements. Following Apple's lead, the FTC also filed a case against Qualcomm, alleging anti-competitive behaviour. Apple dropped its side of the legal battle in 2019 and now two years later, the FTC is letting Qualcomm off the hook too.
The whole situation kicked off in 2017, after Apple launched a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm over what was deemed to be an unfair licensing contract. The FTC also began investigating Qualcomm for anti-competitive business practises at around the same time. Apple then switched away from Qualcomm to Intel for its iPhone modem needs, but Qualcomm countered that by claiming that Apple gave Intel access to confidential information.
Qualcomm fired back on plenty of occasions, filing lawsuits against companies within Apple’s supply chain, tying Apple’s legal team up with various patent disputes and even calling for trading bans on iPhones in certain countries, including the US and China.
Apple and Qualcomm dropped their legal bickering in 2019 and struck up a new licensing deal, which ultimately resulted in Intel selling off its mobile modem business, partially due to the loss of Apple as a major customer.
There was just one beef left to squash, as the FTC continued its lawsuit against Qualcomm. Initially, a District Court sided with the FTC, but an appeals court overturned the ruling. The FTC then planned to appeal to the US Supreme Court to get the case back on track – but that appeal is being dropped this week. While the FTC still believes it was right and could eventually get the courts to agree, it will no longer be pursuing its case against Qualcomm:
“Given the significant headwinds facing the Commission in this matter, the FTC will not petition the Supreme Court to review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in FTC v. Qualcomm”, a statement from the FTC reads. “The FTC’s staff did an exceptional job presenting the case, and I continue to believe that the district court’s conclusion that Qualcomm violated the antitrust laws was entirely correct and that the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise.”
While the FTC is dropping its current case against Qualcomm, the commission says that it needs to enforce antitrust laws “now more than ever”, particularly in the “high-technology markets”.
KitGuru Says: After four years, Qualcomm is officially off the hook. Apple continues to be a customer and while the FTC will be keeping an eye on the company, it is no longer in direct pursuit.