Automakers seek FTC appeal in Qualcomm patent licensing case

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A group of technology companies and automakers, including Tesla, Ford, Honda and Daimler, urged the US Federal Trade Commission on Monday to appeal a case against chip supplier Qualcomm after the loss.

Earlier this month, a US appeals court overturned a lower court decision against Qualcomm, which makes technology for connecting devices to cellular data networks. The court also dropped an injunction that would require Qualcomm to change its patent licensing practices.

Qualcomm fought a May 2019 decision by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, in a case filed by the FTC. Koh sided with the FTC, writing that Qualcomm’s practice of requiring phone manufacturers to sign a patent license agreement before selling chips to “ strangled competition ” and harming consumers.

Car manufacturers are increasingly putting chips in vehicles to connect them to the internet, forcing them to sign patent agreements for communication standards such as 5G. The companies had previously argued that the prices of connected cars could increase if Qualcomm won its case.

Qualcomm won the appeal against that ruling in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in an Aug. 11 ruling by a panel of three judges. In a letter sent Monday, the automakers, as well as Qualcomm rivals Intel and MediaTek, urged the FTC to seek an “en banc” repeat of the case through the full court of appeal.

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“If the panel’s decision is allowed, the panel’s decision could destabilize the ecosystem of standards by encouraging the abuse of market power acquired through joint standards-setting,” the group said.

A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment.

(Reported by Stephen Nellis; edited by Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown)