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Photo illustration: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Qualcomm isn't harming competition when it forces device makers to license its technology in order to use its chips, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Why it matters: The decision, which comes from a three-judge panel in California's Ninth Circuit, tosses out a 2019 district court ruling that cast uncertainty around Qualcomm's business model and therefore the future of the smartphone industry.

Catch up quick: Qualcomm has long used the practice, commonly known as its "no license, no chips" policy, to lock smartphone makers into paying for patent licensing before they can use Qualcomm chips.

  • The Federal Trade Commission in the waning days of the Obama administration sued Qualcomm over the practice, saying it hurt competition and amounted to an abuse of the firm's market power in the smartphone chip industry. That set in motion the court case leading to Tuesday's ruling.
  • The policy was also at the heart of a years-long legal battle between Qualcomm and Apple that the companies settled last year.

What they're saying: "Anticompetitive behavior is illegal under federal antitrust law. Hypercompetitive behavior is not," said Judge Conseulo Callahan, writing for the panel.

"Our job is not to condone or punish Qualcomm for its success, but rather to assess whether the FTC has met its burden under the rule of reason to show that Qualcomm’s practices have crossed the line to 'conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself.' ... We conclude that the FTC has not met its burden."
— Judge Callahan
  • "The Court of Appeals unanimous reversal, entirely vacating the District Court decision, validates our business model and patent licensing program," Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.

Qualcomm shares rose roughly 5% on the news.

What's next: Should it choose to pursue the case further, the FTC could ask the full Ninth Circuit to review the panel decision. It could also seek to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

  • "The court’s ruling is disappointing and we will be considering our options," FTC Bureau of Competition director Ian Conner said in a statement.

Go deeper

10 mins ago - World

Jamal Khashoggi murder suspect arrested in Paris

A person holding a candle and a picture of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a vigil outside of the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

A suspected member of the hit squad that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018 was arrested at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Tuesday, according to AP.

Why it matters: Khalid Aedh Al-Otaibi — who is one of several people sanctioned by the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries over Khashoggi's murder — was trying to board a flight to Riyadh and is now being held on an arrest warrant from Turkey, AP reports, citing a French judicial official.

WarnerMedia-Discovery merger faces questions over Latino programming

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas). Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) want the Justice Department to review closely a proposed merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery over concerns it could limit programming and opportunities for Latino creators.

Why it matters: Castro has been leading a campaign to pressure media companies to hire more diverse staff and produce more programming with people of color. Media mergers could make that more challenging.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.