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Qualcomm can keep current business practices for now, appeals court says

While its appeal of an antitrust ruling wends through the courts, the chipmaker doesn't need to change how it licenses its technology. The case involves Apple and others.

Qualcomm

The appeals process could take a while.

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A US appeals court on Friday froze an antitrust ruling against Qualcomm, allowing the chipmaker to maintain its current business practices for now. Qualcomm has been embroiled in a lawsuit with the US Federal Trade Commission, which two years ago accused the chipmaker of operating a monopoly and forcing Apple and other customers to work with it exclusively. 

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted Qualcomm's request to stay an order that it change how it licenses its technology. In May, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Qualcomm used its dominance to force unnecessary licensing fees on phone makers and illegally hurt competitors in the wireless-chip market.

Qualcomm said its practices were lawful and justified and that Koh's ruling would hurt the company as it appealed the case, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. 

The appeals court's decision means Qualcomm doesn't have to change its business practices during the course of the litigation, which may last another year. The appeals court will hear oral arguments in January, it said. 

"We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit granted our request and believe the district court decision will be overturned once the merits of our appeal have been considered," Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm, said in a statement.

FTC Bureau of Competition Director Bruce Hoffman said in a statement that although he's disappointed in the appeals court's decision, "we respect the decision and look forward to defending the district court's decision on the merits."

First published Aug. 23.
Update, Aug. 26: Adds FTC statement.