FTC gives up on its antitrust battle with Qualcomm

The agency decided not to challenge the appeals court's decision.

Santa Clara, California, USA - Feb 28, 2020: American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm Inc.'s Silicon Valley campus exterior. (hapabapa via Getty Images)

The US Federal Trade Commission won't be pursuing its antitrust case against Qualcomm anymore four years after it filed a lawsuit against the company for alleged anti-competitive practices. Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter has issued a statement announcing that the agency "will not petition the Supreme Court to review" the Court of Appeals' decision last year. The agency won its lawsuit back in 2019, but the appeals court reversed the decision in 2020. At the time, the FTC said it would be considering its options — now, it sounds like the agency is ready to let it go.

According to the FTC's original court filing, Qualcomm was "engaged in exclusionary conduct that taxes its competitors' baseband processor sales, reduces competitors' ability and incentive to innovate, and raises prices paid by consumers for cell phones and tablets." The agency accused Qualcomm of employing monopolistic tactics and wanted the company to renegotiate billions of dollars worth of patent licensing agreements with smartphone makers. It said Qualcomm threatened customers' supplies if they didn't agree with its patent licensing terms and that it "taxed" customers when they purchased processors made by competitors. In addition, it accused Qualcomm of refusing to license patents to its rivals.

The appeals court ruled, however, that the chipmaker's actions didn’t amount to illegal behavior. In her statement, Slaughter said she believes that the district court’s conclusion that Qualcomm violated antitrust laws "was entirely correct and that the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise." That said, the agency decided not to challenge the appeals court's decision, "given the significant headwinds facing the Commission in this matter."