Qualcomm gets respite in antitrust case

This interesting turn of events is likely to set a legal precedent especially in critical areas of core IT infrastructure such as 5G.

In a significant development, the U.S. Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to pause the enforcement of a sweeping antitrust ruling against Qualcomm Inc citing support from the Department of Defense and the Energy Department.

“For DoD, Qualcomm is a key player both in terms of its trusted supply chain and as a leader in innovation, and it would be impossible to replace Qualcomm’s critical role in 5G technology in the short term,” wrote Ellen M. Lord, Under Secretary for Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in a filing made in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh had earlier ruled that Qualcomm had engaged in anticompetitive patent-licensing practices to keep a monopoly on the mobile chip market. She had ordered Qualcomm to license its technology to rival chipmakers, including China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s HiSilicon chip unit and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc.

Qualcomm has argued that if it were to abide by the ruling it could upend talks with phone makers over chips for 5G. With Koh declining to pause the ruling, the case has landed before the 9th Circuit.

In a friend of the court filing, attorneys from the Justice Department argued that Koh’s ruling was “erroneous” and called her decision to forego additional hearings “unlawful.” Attorneys from the Energy Department have also filed in favor of a pause.

“DOE’s missions in nuclear security and protection of the Nation’s energy and nuclear infrastructure are dependent on secure and advanced wireless communications, of which Qualcomm is the major and predominant U.S. supplier of both current generation and upcoming 5G chipsets,” wrote chief information officer Max Everett.

The Defense Department “firmly believes that any measure that inappropriately limits Qualcomm’s technological leadership, ability to invest in research and development, and market competitiveness, even in the short-term, could harm national security,” wrote Lord.

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