On February 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will begin hearing oral arguments in a case that could potentially enable China to surpass the U.S. in cutting-edge communications technology. If the ruling of a lower court against San Diego-based Qualcomm in an antitrust case brought by the Federal Trade Commission is upheld, America's leading source of 5G chip technology would be forced to share its intellectual property with overseas competitors such as Huawei at concessionary prices.
Legal scholars and security experts are in an uproar over potential fallout from the case. Judge Lucy Koh of the Federal District Court found last year that Qualcomm had engaged in anti-competitive practices, due to the way it licenses patents on modem technology for smart phones. She objected specifically to how it priced its licenses, and who it was willing to provide those licenses to. Like other chip companies in the same market, Qualcomm typically licenses its technology to device makers but not to direct competitors.