The FTC said that Qualcomm used its dominant position to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on smartphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors.
Qualcomm said in a statement that it would “vigorously contest” the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips to collect unreasonable licensing fees.
The action is the last under current Democratic Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, who will step down soon after President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes office.
Trump will name Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen as acting FTC chairwoman and will fill three vacancies that will reshape the agency. She has previously said that the lawsuit was based on a “flawed legal theory … that lacks economic and evidentiary support”.
In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and entering an exclusive deal with Apple.
“Qualcomm’s customers have accepted elevated royalties and other license terms that do not reflect an assessment of terms that a court or other neutral arbiter would determine to be fair and reasonable,” the FTC said in its complaint.
In February 2015, Qualcomm paid a $975 million fine in China following a 14 month probe, while the European Union in December 2015 accused it of abusing its market power to thwart rivals.