In the latest twist to Qualcomm Inc.’s long-running antitrust case, a federal appeals court gave the wireless chipmaker permission to conduct its business as usual — at least temporarily.
It did so Aug. 23 by granting a partial stay to an injunction that a lower court issued in May.
The Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) and on May 21, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Qualcomm had violated antitrust law in its licensing agreements. She called for Qualcomm to renegotiate its agreements with its customers.
On Aug. 23, a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted the order while Qualcomm appeals the original court’s verdict. Qualcomm is scheduled to present oral arguments in January.
Specifically, the appeals court stayed the portion of the lower court’s injunction that required Qualcomm to make exhaustive standard essential patent licenses available to competing modem-chip suppliers.
In her May ruling, Judge Koh also forbade Qualcomm from requiring a customer to buy licenses to Qualcomm patents in order to buy Qualcomm’s modem chips. The judge said Qualcomm must negotiate or renegotiate license terms with its customers. In its Aug. 23 ruling, the appeals court stayed that portion of the injunction as well.
“We are pleased that the 9th Circuit granted our request and believe the district court decision will be overturned once the merits of our appeal have been considered,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm, in a statement issued by the company on Aug. 23. “The stay, which remains in effect through the course of the appeals process, keeps intact Qualcomm’s patent-licensing practices. This will allow Qualcomm to continue to invest in inventing the fundamental technologies at the heart of mobile communications at this critical time of transition to 5G.”
5G refers to fifth-generation wireless technology, which transmits data faster than current, fourth-generation wireless systems.