South Korea fines Qualcomm over charges of squeezing competitors out
The Korea Fair Trade Commission, a South Korean regulatory agency, has issued an $865 million fine against US-based chipmaker Qualcomm for breaking competition law in the country.
The company is charged with suppressing access to patents for its wireless modem through unnecessarily burdensome licensing agreements, especially for companies doing business with other silicon providers. The KFTC claims that such practices unfairly impacted mobile phone manufacturers and is ordering Qualcomm to renegotiate deals if inquired.
Qualcomm responded in a press statement, insisting that any impending action is not effective until a final written decision is passed down and that when such “an unprecedented and insupportable decision” is issued, it will request a stay and appeal the decision. It claims that the Korean government is putting its thumb into patent licensing practices that have been “accepted by the wireless industry and used by major patent holders for decades,” and that the fines are not proportionate to the size of the Korean market.
The semiconductor company was riled by Chinese regulators with a $975 million fine over its licensing practices. It has been publicizing new agreements with manufacturers based on the National Development and Reform Commission’s guidelines. Qualcomm also was fined by the KFTC in 2012 for anti-competitive patent licensing practices of CDMA modem technologies — and that fine was the largest for the agency at the time.
The US and Taiwan are also looking in.