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Qualcomm legal sees cut by EU Court after antitrust appeal

Written by Mon 4 Mar 2024

Image Credit: Reuters

The European Union General Court said EU regulators should pay £853,792 ($672,742) of legal fees for US chipmaker, Qualcomm. 

This figure is less than 10% of the £10 million ($13 million) sought by Qualcomm after it won an appeal against an antitrust fine. The EU General Court said the hourly rate and number of hours worked in Qualcomm’s claim was ‘manifestly excessive’.

In 2022, Qualcomm invoiced the European Commission following the General Court’s support for the company’s challenge against a £853 million ($1 billion) EU antitrust fine from 2018. The court directed the regulator to cover Qualcomm’s legal expenses.

The Commission disputed the £10 million ($13 million) total sought by Qualcomm, instead saying the amount should be £346,994 ($439,918). Qualcomm justified its legal expenses by emphasising the case’s significance, complexity, and the substantial workload handled by its team of 19.

However, on 29 February 2024, General Court judges disregarded Qualcomm’s arguments, stating the courts should prioritise the hours required for legal proceedings, regardless of the number of lawyers involved.

“The applicant’s request is insufficiently substantiated and manifestly excessive as regards both the amounts claimed and the numbers of hours and related hourly rates … the Commission’s proposal, while constituting a useful estimate, nevertheless appears to be below what would constitute an appropriate assessment,” said the General Court in the ruling.

The Court approved fees of £645,726 ($818,570) for law firm, Quinn Emanuel, and £27,118 ($34,375) for consulting firms Compass Lexecon and FTI Consulting. However, they rejected a request for £259,173 ($328,491) from Cravath Swaine & Moore as those fees were for documents from US proceedings used as evidence in EU litigation.

Qualcomm Wins Appeal Against EU

In June 2022, European antitrust regulators reportedly stopped their pursuit of a £789 million ($1 billion) fine against Qualcomm. The semiconductor firm won an appeal at Europe’s General Court over a £789 million ($1 billion) fine that European Union regulators sought due to the firm’s payments to Apple to use Qualcomm chips.

Regulators believed overturning the appeal and reinstating the fine would be too challenging. At the start of 2018, European regulators alleged that payments made from Qualcomm to Apple between 2011 and 2016 were sent to guarantee that Qualcomm cellular modems were used in Apple iPhone and iPad manufacturing.

Internal Qualcomm documents and communications indicated that the company believed making payments would deter Apple from choosing modems from Qualcomm’s competitors. However, despite this evidence, the EU General Court ruled that “procedural irregularities” affected Qualcomm’s defence rights and that the payments alone did not suffice to demonstrate anti-competitive practices.

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Written by Mon 4 Mar 2024

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