Qualcomm Loses Antitrust Suspension Appeal In South Korea

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Qualcomm on Monday lost the suspension appeal it filed against an antitrust penalty issued to the company by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) which ordered the firm in late 2016 to pay 1.03 trillion won due to its supposed anti-competitive behavior. The sanction — which currently amounts to over $912 million — was meant to punish what the KFTC deemed was monopolistic behavior and negotiating over patents in bad faith, a notion that Qualcomm repeatedly rejected, claiming its patents and related licensing policies are in line with contemporary industry standards. The antitrust watchdog in the Far Eastern country initially ordered the company to pay the aforementioned fine and revise its patenting policies, with that particular verdict now being upheld by a competent appellate body.

The rejected lawsuit that Qualcomm filed with the Seoul High Court sought a suspension of the measures issued by the KFTC but the court has yet to rule on another lawsuit aimed against the sanction itself, with Qualcomm also suing the government agency in an effort to nullify its verdict. That particular case is still ongoing but the San Diego, California-based tech giant is now expected to comply with the KFTC's verdict for the time being, even if the Seoul High Court ultimately finds the antitrust measures to be illegal and reverts them. Qualcomm was initially seeking a suspended sentence because it was confident that the original verdict won't hold up to scrutiny from the appellate court, though the probability of that scenario remains unclear. The semiconductor firm claimed that complying with the KFTC's verdict before waiting for the result of its main appeal could cause "irreparable damage" to its regional operations if the Seoul High Court dismisses or alters the sanctions, a notion that the judicial body now officially dismissed.

The latest turn of events is yet another episode in Qualcomm's clashes with antitrust regulators all over the world, with some of them having recently investigated the firm over potentially unfair patent licensing practices and fees which the company determines on a per-device basis. The outcome of Qualcomm's main appeal is likely to be known by early 2018 when the Seoul High Court is expected to rule on the case.

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