Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Final pretrial conference order in Apple, Foxconn et al. v. Qualcomm (Southern District of California)

There were two developments yesterday in connection with Qualcomm's antitrust issues.

First, the EU General Court (which used to be call the European Court of First Instance) handed down a judgment that upholds the entirety of the European Commission's March 31, 2017 decision that Qualcomm would incur a daily fine of 580,000 euros for non-compliance with two information requests after specified dates (May 12, 2017 for one of them, and May 26, 2017 for the other). The EU General Court already denied in July 2017 a Qualcomm motion to stay the order, as I mentioned in this post. Apparently Qualcomm then had to comply (though it still appealed the decision), and the investigation of Qualcomm's exclusivity arrangements and predatory pricing further to a complaint by Icera, a once-European semiconductor company acquired by Nvidia (and shut down later).

At first sight one may wonder why Qualcomm would be accused of overcharging in one context and of predatory pricing in another, but the two theories can be reconciled: Qualcomm's supra-FRAND royalties enable the company to impose a tax on everyone and to sell chipsets, especially in the low-end segment, at a lower cost than Qualcomm could if it contented itself with FRAND royalties. It's one of the ways Qualcomm benefits from a business model that flies in the face of all we know about the concept of patent exhaustion.

Second, we're five days away from the start of the Apple & Contract Manufacturers v. Qualcomm antitrust and (secondarily) contract dispute in the Southern District of California. Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel (whom Judge James L. Robart, known for two groundbreaking SEP-related rulings, holds in the highest regard), has entered a final pretrial conference order (this post continues below the 262-page document):

19-04-09 Final Apple Foxcon... by on Scribd

This is a long document and I've mostly published it here as reference material for the upcoming trial. I haven't fully digested it yet, but it reflects the judge's prior categorization of the case as primarily an antitrust/FRAND and only secondarily a contract dispute.

The way the defenses to the parties' different claims are presented is consistent with what Apple had proposed: to list the defenses after each claim. Qualcomm had argued it would have been more efficient to discuss the defenses just once (and then apply them to multiple claims).

What both parties appear to be fine with is that the judge will interpret some disputed contract terms after the presentation of evidence, but before jury deliberations.

Don't be puzzled by the official date of the order. It came down on April 9, but with retroactive (ex tunc) effect.

There's probably something more in that long document that's worth talking about, and I'll take a closer look between now and the start of the trial on Monday.

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