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The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in FTC v. Qualcomm (9th Cir., Aug. 11, 2020) is generally viewed as a resounding victory for Qualcomm. But in praising Qualcomm’s egalitarian approach toward rival chip makers, the Ninth Circuit points out that instead of granting licenses to these rivals, Qualcomm merely “declines to enforce its patents” against them “even though they practice Qualcomm’s patents”. As such, the Ninth Circuit states that Qualcomm’s “policy toward rival chipmakers could be characterized as ‘no license, no problem’”. Yet, from the standpoint of patent exhaustion, this approach could actually be a very big problem, not only for Qualcomm, but for all patent licensors seeking to extract revenue from the most lucrative point in the supply chain.
Patently-O, Sept. 1, 2020