Home > IP Express > Patent

Nokia backs Qualcomm in SEP case with FTC

Post Time:2018-10-18 Source:WIPR Author: Views:

Nokia has defended Qualcomm in its standard-essential patent (SEP) dispute with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has also responded to Nokia’s arguments.

District Judge Lucy Koh allowed the FTC to file a response to Nokia’s amicus brief at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, on Friday, October 12.

The competition dispute between Qualcomm and the FTC dates back to January 2017, when the commission accused the company of using unfair licensing tactics to maintain a monopoly in the supply of semiconductor devices.

Qualcomm “consistently refused” to license its SEPs to competitors, in violation of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing obligations, the FTC alleged.

Ahead of the trial, which is scheduled to take place in January 2019, the FTC filed a motion for partial summary judgment.

The commission asked Koh to rule that Qualcomm is obliged to license its wireless SEPs to competitors under the semiconductor company’s contractual commitments to make the technology available on FRAND terms.

In response, Qualcomm said that if the motion is granted, it would “radically reshape licensing in the cellular industry”.

Also, if the FTC’s argument was correct, then licensing agreements in the form asserted by the FTC would be commonplace—and they are not, Qualcomm said.

Despite Qualcomm’s argument, technology associations which represent companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google shared their support for the FTC’s position in an amicus brief in September.

Now, telecommunications company Nokia has filed an amicus brief in Qualcomm’s favour.

Nokia warned against “novel and surprising interpretations” of the regulations governing SEPs which may have unintended consequences for SEP owners and the wider industry.

“Complications that would likely arise from inconsistent licensing obligations advocated for in the FTC’s motion for partial summary judgment could unravel the success of SEP licensing and standards development,” Nokia said.

Last week, the FTC asked Koh for leave to file its response to Nokia’s brief, as Nokia’s claims “miss the mark” in their interpretation of the FTC’s arguments.

The FTC’s response brief, attached to the motion, claimed that “Nokia’s argument has no bearing on the proper interpretation of FRAND commitments”.

Nokia also failed to address the plain language of the SEP-governing contractual policies which are the subject of the FTC’s motion for partial summary judgment, the commission said.

The brief added that, in 2006, Nokia told the European Commission that Qualcomm’s FRAND obligations required it to enter into licensing agreements with rival suppliers.

On Friday, Koh said that the FTC had shown “good cause” for leave to be granted and allowed the commission to file its response.