In a preliminary ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Lucy Koh has said that Qualcomm must license some of its modem-related patents to other chip-making firms.
Qualcomm has never licensed its essential network and modem-related patents to other companies. Instead, it has used these patents to earn billions of dollars in licensing fees. By not licensing its patents to other companies, Qualcomm managed to keep its competition at bay and ensured it had a monopoly in supplying modem chips to key smartphone makers like Apple.
Before this preliminary ruling by Judge Lucy Koh, Qualcomm tried to settle matters with the FTC outside of the court. The case pertains to Apple being forced to use Qualcomm modem inside its devices.
Qualcomm wanted to settle matters out of the court because it feared the result would go against it. Qualcomm and FTC had both asked Judge Lucy Koh to delay the ruling by up to 30 days so that they could settle the matter outside the court. However, Koh denied that motion earlier this week and instead delivered her preliminary ruling in the case.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go on trial next year so while Intel and other chip makers can rejoice right now, there’s a possibility of Qualcomm winning the lawsuit eventually and not have to share its key patents with other companies.
This is not the first time that Qualcomm has tried to settle matters with regulators outside of the court. The company previously settled with Taiwanese regulators by paying them $93 million and promising to invest $700 million in the country over the next five years.
It was this very complaint from the FTC that kickstarted the legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm. After FTC registered a formal complaint against Qualcomm in early 2017, Apple went ahead and sued Qualcomm for $1 billion. The San Diego chip-maker responded by countersuing Apple for billions of dollars as well.