The South Korean Free Trade Commission has ordered Qualcomm to change a licensing agreement with Samsung for the use of several crucial patents. Accrording to the KFTC, the current agreement between the two companies amounts to patent abuse, and works against Samsung’s ability to conduct business.
The patents in question concern the manufacture of Samsung’s Exynos chips; which rely on second generation CDMA patents owned by Qualcomm. The 1993 agreement allowed Samsung to make modems for its own device, but not for others. This was not an issue at the time, but the situation changed when smartphones began to integrate modems into the SoC.
Samsung had originally asked to amend the agreement in 2011 to allow it to market the Exynos chipset to third parties. Qualcomm insisted that this could only be done if either Samsung or its customer paid the patent licensing fees. Negotiations between the two companies broke down in 2013 and the South Korea electronics giant turned to the commission for assistance.
This declaration isn’t entirely new for those who have been following the issue between Qualcomm and Samsung. The KFTC fined Qualcomm some 1 trillion won (about RM3.94 billion) back in December 2016 for violating anti-trust laws and abusing its patents.
Samsung is currently manufacturing both Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets and its own Exynos processors. A fact that indicates that the patent problems between the two companies is not all that serious. However, it could lead to direct competition between the two in the event that Samsung becomes free to market the Exynos line to other manufacturers. Not that direct competition has ever stopped Samsung from working with others.