Published: Fri, December 30, 2016
Hi-Tech | By Merle Christensen

South Korea: Qualcomm facing fine of $854m over competition law violation

The fine was imposed by the Korea Fair Trade Commission, an antitrust regulator that has been investigating Qualcomm's licensing and business practices for many years.

Qualcomm was fined $854 million for violating several of South Korean antitrust laws. The same was true of Qualcomm's $975 million fine a year ago from China's antitrust authorities, which investigated similar issues as their South Korean counterparts.

This is the heaviest ever fine levied on any company in South Korea by the regulating body.

Qualcomm strongly disagrees with the KFTC's announced decision, which Qualcomm believes is inconsistent with the facts and the law, reflects a flawed process and represents a violation of due process rights owed American companies under the Korea-U.S. Regulators in the country claim that the company's patent-licensing business is unfair to mobile phone creators.

The trouble for Qualcomm is regulators may do what the power of the markets has not: break Qualcomm's uniquely intertwined businesses. Qualcomm is being ordered to renegotiate affected chip orders and operate "in good faith" with competitors going forward. Picture of Qualcomm's lobby in South Korea on the 28th. It asked the judge to order Apple, Samsung and other firms to turn over the information that they shared with Korea Fair Trade Commission about Qualcomm. Those two countries aren't the only ones looking into Qualcomm's licensing practices.

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Qualcomm, which was hit with a 260-billion-won fine in 2009 in a similar case, has said the fine is unreasonable and plans to challenge it in court.

Qualcomm is calling the decision 'unprecedented and insupportable, ' and said it will appeal the decision in Seoul's high court.

Qualcomm owns numerous essential patents in the CDMA (code division multiple access) and LTE (long-term evolution) mobile standards, and charges mobile companies and other chipmakers royalties for using them.

The antitrust regulator said that the company has taken a wrong advantage of its dominance in the South Korean markets by compelling handset makers to unnecessarily pay royalties for its patents. This patent licensing business makes up a non-trivial 32.8 percent of the company's total revenue according to the company's latest earnings report.

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