Qualcomm’s case kicked back to lower court

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Qualcomm’s case kicked back to lower court

Korea’s Supreme Court has found that a 2009 penalty decision by the state antitrust body against Qualcomm was not completely lawful, sending the case back to a lower court for reconsideration, court officials said Monday.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) fined the chipmaker 273.2 billion won ($243 million) for paying incentives to Korean clients buying more of its modem and radio frequency (RF) chips.

Qualcomm paid Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics to use Qualcomm chips for certain smartphone models between 2000 and 2009, the FTC found in its inquiry.

The FTC said the company paid more in incentives to LG over certain periods during those years for the purchases of its RF chips and decided it breached fair market practice rules by abusing a market monopoly.

The Seoul High Court ruled in the FTC’s favor in 2013, saying Qualcomm’s incentive offers effectively forced Korean buyers to refrain from exploring other deals with the chipmaker’s competitors.

Some of the incentives exclusively paid to LG were also unlawful as they undermined fair competition, the court had said.

In Monday’s ruling the Supreme Court judged that LG’s share in the smartphone market from 2006-08 remained well below the 40 percent level, which is not considered a majority, and thus it is less likely its increasing use of Qualcomm chips hurt fair market competition.

Qualcomm is currently engaged in a separate suit against the FTC over its 2016 decision to fine the chipmaker 1.03 trillion won over what the commission’s called a monopoly on chip supplies and patent rights.

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