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Qualcomm Becomes Most Fined Company in the Smartphone Business

30 December, 2016, 01:10 | Author: Abraham Jackson
  • Shin Young-sun

A South Korean government agency has slapped Qualcomm with a US$853 million fine, alleging the company indulged in business practices that violated the country's competition laws. $852.9 million for alleged antitrust law violations as the US chip maker faces global scrutiny over its patent-licensing business. Last year, Qualcomm settled similar charges with China's antitrust regulator, agreeing to pay $975 million in that case.

It is the single largest fine ever imposed on any business in the country, and also among the biggest antitrust fines in history anywhere in the world. It is also accused of coercing customers to sign patent licenses, and not paying fairly for the patents held by other phone manufacturers.

"The decision is aimed at putting right Qualcomm's unfair business model".

"Qualcomm has provided handset companies with only comprehensive portfolio licenses and coerced unilaterally determined royalty terms without conducting a procedure to calculate fair compensation, while coercing unfair agreements, e.g., demanding handset companies to license their patents for free". Apple, Intel, MediaTek, and Huawei were among the companies questioned during the deliberation process. With a sizeable portion of the mobile industry concentrated in South Korea, the outcome could make a major impact on pre-sale expenses for manufacturers.

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According to the regulator, Qualcomm limited or refused access to vital wireless technology patents for rivals in Korea, hindering sales at companies such as Samsung. Apart from directly affecting their sales, the South Korean antitrust watchdog concluded that this practice left Qualcomm's rivals unprotected from common lawsuits.

The announcement came as Qualcomm faces ongoing anti-trust probes in the United States, the European Union and Taiwan. The company says that regulators are upending patent royalty practices that have been in place for more than two decades worldwide and benefited South Korean companies including Samsung and LG.

"Qualcomm strongly believes that the KFTC findings are inconsistent with the facts, disregard the economic realities of the marketplace, and misapply fundamental tenets of competition law", said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm's executive vice president and general counsel in a statement.

The company garnered more than $25 billion in revenue in its 2015 fiscal year, of which about 30 per cent stemmed from its patent-licensing business.

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