April 13, 2017

“Qualcomm ordered to refund BlackBerry £650M in royalty overpayments,” Bit-tech, April 13, 2017

Qualcomm has been ordered to pay licensee BlackBerry £650 million, plus fees and interest, following a ruling that the company had forced BlackBerry to overpay licence fees relating to smartphone technologies.

Best known for its Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC) parts, Qualcomm holds numerous patents on the technologies required to build a modern smartphone, including several which make up the core of the UMTS 3G cellular networking technology. While it is required in most countries to make these ‘standard-essential patents‘ available under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, its competitors – and occasionally customers – have accused it of failing to do so, leading to several fines from countries’ anti-monopoly commissions, an ongoing FTC suit, and three active lawsuits filed by Apple in the US, UK, and China.

Lawsuits involving standard essential patents are increasingly common. As the technology becomes entrenched, precisely because it is the standard, potentially competing technologies are by-passed, leaving licensees with no alternative,‘ explained Harness Dickey principal Bryan Wheelock of the growing number of cases against Qualcomm and other holders of standard essential patents. ‘This distorts normal royalty rate negotiations, and spawns disputes. As the market matures and margins drop, the royalty rate becomes an irritant.

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