Qualcomm is fined $865 million by South Korean antitrust regulator

Georgia ReedDec 29, 2016

The South Korean Fair Trade Commission recently made a decision to fine Qualcomm with a record of $865 million over antitrust violations.

South Korea's anti-trust watchdog slapped USA computer chip giant Qualcomm with a record fine exceeding US$850 million on Wednesday for abusing its dominant market position as a maker of baseband chipsets used in mobile phones.

According to the regulator, Qualcomm limited or refused access to vital wireless technology patents for rivals in Korea, hindering sales at companies such as Samsung.

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Last year Qualcomm paid China $975 million for the same thing.

The fine violates the terms of a free-trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, Qualcomm said.

Qualcomm's attorneys say the company has won many cases similar to this one in the past and expects to make clear that, aside from following longtime standard industry practice, profits from licensing fees are essential to research and design there.

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Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel, Qualcomm, said in the statement: "For decades, Qualcomm has worked hand in hand with Korean companies to foster the growth of the wireless Internet". When this happens, the company will file for an immediate stay of the corrective order and will appeal the decision, as well as the method used to calculate the fine, in the Seoul High Court.

The South Korean agency said the USA chipmaker acted improperly in licensing some of its important patents on mobile phone technology.

Regulators in the U.S. and Taiwan are also investigating the company. The findings closed out an investigation that began in 2014 and included intervention from Apple, Huawei, Intel and MediaTek.

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The Korea Fair Trade Commission today ordered the chip maker to pay $854 million for what it has deemed to be anticompetitive behavior in the mobile processor market. Qualcomm's modem technology is, however, considered superior to its rivals. This recent ruling won't go into effect until the commission issues a formal written order, which is said to take anywhere from weeks to months to put together. Mobile manufacturers eventually had to increase dependence on Qualcomm chip sets, and being unable to find sufficient suppliers, chip set manufacturers faced business challenges.

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