Following the Federal Trade Commission’s decision not to petition the Supreme Court for review of the Qualcomm case, Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued this statement:
“Given the significant headwinds facing the Commission in this matter, the FTC will not petition the Supreme Court to review the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in FTC v. Qualcomm. The FTC’s staff did an exceptional job presenting the case, and I continue to believe that the district court’s conclusion that Qualcomm violated the antitrust laws was entirely correct and that the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise. Now more than ever, the FTC and other law enforcement agencies need to boldly enforce the antitrust laws to guard against abusive behavior by dominant firms, including in high-technology markets and those that involve intellectual property. I am particularly concerned about the potential for anticompetitive or unfair behavior in the context of standard setting and the FTC will closely monitor conduct in this arena.”
The FTC’s 2017 complaint challenged Qualcomm’s unlawful maintenance of a monopoly in baseband processors, semiconductor devices that enable cellular communications in cell phones and other products. It asserted that Qualcomm has engaged in exclusionary conduct that taxes its competitors’ baseband processor sales, reduces competitors’ ability and incentive to innovate, and raises prices paid by consumers for cell phones and tablets.
On May 21, 2019, Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the FTC, finding that Qualcomm violated U.S. antitrust law. On August 11, 2020, that decision was reversed by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The agency’s request for en banc rehearing of the decision was denied.