Ninth Circuit Overturns FTC v. Qualcomm Decision

August 19, 2020

The Ninth Circuit has reversed the Northern District of California’s landmark ruling in FTC v. Qualcomm. In that May 2019 decision, District Judge Lucy Koh held that Qualcomm had violated antitrust law by requiring mobile device makers to take licenses to its patents before they could buy its cellular modem chips, also holding that Qualcomm had breached its FRAND obligations by refusing to license its competitors. The court’s ruling also imposed a permanent injunction, but the Ninth Circuit issued a stay of that remedy pending its ruling on appeal. On August 11, the Ninth Circuit overturned the district court’s decision as to the Sherman Act and its grant of a permanent injunction, holding in part that Qualcomm’s conduct did not amount to a violation of antitrust law—and that such disputes over the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs) are best resolved under contract law.

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