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Sunday, June 23, 2024

South Korea Supreme Court Fines Qualcomm $795M

The South Korean Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of the country’s antitrust regulators, maintaining the $795 million fine on U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm for unfair business practices. The case began when Korea’s Fair Trade Commission decided to impose a heavy fine on Qualcomm and its affiliates in late 2016, citing the San Diego-based tech giant’s abuse of power as the dominant player in the smartphone business.

Qualcomm was accused of violating antitrust regulations by failing to license its standard, essential patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, charging excessive fees to smartphone manufacturers for patent usage, and not paying them an adequate share of patent fees. The regulator’s record fine was seen as a corrective measure to prevent such unfair business practices in the future.

The case gained global attention due to the involvement of major players such as Samsung Electronics, Intel, LG Electronics, and Apple. In early 2017, Qualcomm appealed the initial ruling, asking the Seoul High Court to nullify the verdict and cancel the massive fine. However, the court dismissed the appeal, and now, the Supreme Court has upheld that decision.

The ruling is a significant victory for South Korea’s antitrust regulators, who have been actively pursuing cases against tech giants to prevent monopolistic practices that may harm consumers and smaller players in the market. The decision also sends a clear message to other companies that abuse their dominant positions in the industry and violate antitrust regulations.

In a statement, Qualcomm said it accepted the court’s final verdict.

“Qualcomm appreciates the court’s resolution of the matter, and we look forward to continuing to grow the company’s longstanding commercial relationships with Korea and our partners here,” it said.

A representative from Qualcomm Korea confirmed to UPI News Korea that the company has been complying with the corrective measures since the ruling. This is not the first time the company has faced legal trouble in Korea, as it was fined $211 million by Korea’s FTC in 2009 for offering illegal discounts and rebates for its chips, as well as requiring royalties even after patent licenses expired.

Qualcomm appealed the ruling and saw partial success in a prolonged legal battle that lasted almost a decade. In 2019, Korea’s Supreme Court largely upheld the fine as valid, though not entirely.

In conclusion, the South Korean Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the $795 million fine against Qualcomm serves as a warning to companies engaging in unfair business practices that they will face severe consequences. The ruling is a significant win for the country’s antitrust regulators and reinforces their commitment to ensuring fair competition in the market.

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