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Qualcomm won't have to offer patent licenses to rivals, for now

A court has granted a partial reprieve from a US antitrust ruling.
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AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Qualcomm won't face the full consequences of the antitrust ruling, at least not right away. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a request to temporarily halt requirements that it both grant patent licenses to rivals and stop demanding patent licenses before customers can buy chips. The stay will only last as long as Qualcomm's appeal of the antitrust case wends its way through the courts, but Qualcomm was convinced the original decision "will be overturned."

The company claimed the reprieve was vital to investing in technologies as part of a "critical time of transition to 5G."

Of course, there's a more pragmatic factor behind the request: the ruling would have dramatically altered Qualcomm's existing patent strategy. Reuters noted that Qualcomm would have to renegotiate all of its current chip and patent deals, and any new deals would need to honor stricter requirements. Those could require extensive work and likely hurt Qualcomm's substantial income from patent licenses.

Whether or not Qualcomm gets what it wants through the appeal is less than certain. The court had determined that Qualcomm had been stifling competition and collecting unreasonably steep royalty rates -- the company would need to show how its practices are fair in the long term, and that's a tougher sell than a momentary break.

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