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DOJ & FTC Will Argue Opposite Sides Of A Qualcomm Suit Thursday

 |  February 9, 2020

According to the Financial Times, the Trump administration is set for an unusual courtroom showdown on Thursday, February 13, between lawyers of two federal antitrust agencies who will argue opposite sides of a Qualcomm case that could help shape the race to develop 5G technology.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the US chipmaker’s side as Qualcomm tries to overturn its loss at trial last year in a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit filed in the final days of the Obama administration. 

Lawyers for the DOJ’s antitrust division, headed by Makan Delrahim, a former Qualcomm lobbyist recused from the case, have argued that US national security is at stake, while FTC attorneys have accused the DOJ of interfering with antitrust enforcement. 

“This is not just unusual, it’s more directly confrontational than anything I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Baer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has headed competition enforcement under Democratic presidents at both the DOJ and the FTC.

According to the FT, the controversial move by the DOJ is just one example of the interventionist approach increasingly taken by parts of the Trump administration as the White House tries to chip away at the lead China has taken in the development of 5G communications.

Qualcomm is accused of overcharging for patents that smartphone makers have to buy to meet industry standards for cellular communications. A district judge ruled in May last year the US chipmaker had “strangled competition” and ordered drastic changes to its sales practices. The DOJ argued that even if Qualcomm had charged “unreasonably high” prices, that would be allowed under US competition law, saying that to find otherwise could “radically undermine important incentives to innovate.”

Full Content: Financial Times

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