The US Justice Department wants Judge Koh to take it easy on Qualcomm.
Right now, the FTC has taken Qualcomm to court, claiming that the chip maker is a monopoly. Now, the case is in Judge Koh's hands. If that name sounds familiar, it's because she also presided over the Apple v Samsung case, earlier this decade. The Justice Department wants Judge Koh to take it easy, as it is worried that if Qualcomm is ruled a monopoly, that it could hurt competitors when it comes to building a 5G network.
Surprisingly, this came well before the agreement that Qualcomm and Apple agreed to last month, that essentially pushed Intel out of the 5G race. Which only provides more proof that Qualcomm is indeed a monopoly.
The Justice Department filed a statement with the US District Court in San Jose, California this week, stating that "in the event that the court finds liability on any of the FTC's claims, the court should order additional briefing and hold a hearing on issues related to a remedy."
The antitrust division also noted that "there is a plausible prospect that an overly broad remedy in the case could reduce competition and innovation in markets for 5G technology and downstream applications that rely on that technology." The statement goes on to talk about how a broad remedy has a "distinct potential to harm rather than help competition."
Though, the statement did also stress that the DOJ has not taken a position on this case. Meaning it hasn't publicly decided if Qualcomm is or isn't a monopoly.
This case, in particular, is over two years in the making. As the FTC accused Qualcomm of being a monopoly, back in 2017. Saying that it is a monopoly in the wireless chips area. The FTC also said that Qualcomm forces companies like Apple to work exclusively with them, and that it charges excessive royalties on the products that it sells to its partners. This is the exact reason that Apple stopped paying Qualcomm's royalties and the two ended up in court.
Qualcomm is a monopoly, in a lot of people's minds. This is because it is really the only option around when it comes to mobile processors and modems. While there are other companies making mobile processors – like Samsung, Huawei and MediaTek – Qualcomm owns so many CDMA patents, that if you want your smartphone to work on Verizon and/or Sprint, you're going to have to use a Qualcomm chipset.
When it comes to modems, the only other choice was Intel, and now it has fully withdrawn, and the only customer it had was Apple. Now that Apple and Qualcomm have signed that agreement, it'll be using Qualcomm's modems instead of Intel's. Which makes Qualcomm look like an even larger monopoly than it was already.
Judge Koh has not given her verdict just yet, on the case. But it wouldn't be surprising for her to rule Qualcomm as a monopoly. But the Justice Department is also afraid that if Qualcomm is ruled as a monopoly, that it could hinder competition when it comes to 5G. Which is going to be a big deal, since the US is already behind when it comes to 5G.