Intel has put modem and embedded processor rival Qualcomm on blast for, it claims, its attempts to 'stifle competition' through unfair licensing practices and aggressive yet unsuccessful patent lawsuits - ironic, given the company's history in this regard.
As well as attempting, and largely failing, to compete against Qualcomm's low-power system-on-chip products, Intel has been in a toe-to-toe battle with the company over who will get to supply modem parts to Apple for its iPhone and cellular iPad products. Qualcomm, for its part, accused Intel of receiving confidential information leaked by Apple while also claiming Apple artificially restricted the performance of Qualcomm modems to make Intel parts look better. Intel, naturally, denies these claims - and now is putting Qualcomm's own anticompetitive practices in the limelight.
'Competition authorities around the world have repeatedly found Qualcomm’s licensing practices unlawful, yet Qualcomm continues to try to achieve the same results through a campaign of patent lawsuits,' Intel's general counsel Steven R. Rodgers claims in an aggressive piece titled Another Attempt to Stifle Competition published late last night. 'These lawsuits have been largely unsuccessful, and at best would reduce innovation and raise prices. Qualcomm’s goal is not to vindicate its intellectual property rights, but rather to drive competition out of the market for premium modem chips, and to defend a business model that ultimately harms consumers. As we’ve noted before, in the last several years, Qualcomm has been fined nearly a billion dollars in China, $850 million in Korea, $1.2 billion by the European Commission and $773 million in Taiwan (later reduced in a settlement) for anti-competitive practices.
'Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission continues to pursue claims against Qualcomm in federal court for alleged violation of U.S. antitrust law. Just last month, the Northern California federal district court rejected Qualcomm’s arguments that it has a legal basis for its refusal to license its standards-essential patents to modem chip competitors. Judge Lucy Koh rejected Qualcomm’s strained arguments that its conduct has a basis in the rules of its standards bodies participation. She concluded that, “Qualcomm never attempts to explain how discrimination against modem chip suppliers is consistent with the stated purposes of the IPR policies.” Opening arguments in the Federal Trade Commission case will begin Jan. 4. We encourage everyone interested in the future of mobile communications to pay attention to this case.'
Rodgers' aggressive approach stands in stark contrast to Intel's own reputation in this area: Back in 2009 the company was hit with a record £948 million fine by the European Commission over its abuse of a dominant market position to exclude AMD and other competitors, offering hidden rebates - and, in one case, an outright cash bung - for companies to stock Intel parts exclusively, while also bribing manufacturers to cancel or delay the launch of products containing AMD processors. The company did, however, successfully request a review of the ruling, which it was granted in 2017 and which has yet to be completed. A similar case brought against Intel by the US Federal Trade Commission was settled in 2010 as was a Korean antitrust violation suit in 2008.
Qualcomm has not publicly responded to Intel's attack.