A US lobbying group which counts Facebook, Google and Microsoft among its backers told the US International Trade Commission (ITC) a ban on some Apple devices, requested by Qualcomm as part of an ongoing legal dispute, “would support practices that cause harm to consumers”.
Earlier this month, Qualcomm called for a ban on the sale of iPhones using baseband processors supplied by companies other than Qualcomm affiliates – Apple uses Intel chips in some devices. This was based on alleged infringement of a number of patents which “cover key technologies and enable important features and functions in iPhones”.
Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), said: “Qualcomm is already using its dominant position to pressure competitors and tax competing products. If the ITC were to grant this exclusion order, it would help Qualcomm use its monopoly power for further leverage against Apple, and allow them to drive up prices on consumer devices.”
Significantly, Intel is a CCIA member (as is device maker Samsung). Apple and Qualcomm are not.
In its filing, CCIA said that “the facts make clear that Qualcomm’s intent in bringing this action is to maintain their monopoly”. It warned that harm would occur in three ways: supply constraints, pressure to drop challenges to anticompetitive practices, and competitor exit.
Noting that Qualcomm previously had an exclusive contract with Apple, and that after it expired Apple began using Intel’s baseband processors, “effectively, Qualcomm seeks to replace their contractual exclusivity provision with an exclusion order”.
“What’s at stake here is certainly the availability of iPhones and other smartphones at better prices. But even more critical is the principle of open competition that has been historically important to US economic success,” Black said.