Announcing its third quarter financial results on Thursday, InterDigital told investors that Taiwan’s antitrust regulator has ended its probe into the company, having found no violations of Taiwan’s Fair Trade Act. The decision is a good result for the company led by Bill Merritt, providing a validation of the its SEP licensing practices at a time when competition watchdogs around the region are carefully scrutinising this market.
The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) had been looking into InterDigital since 2013. In a call with analysts, Merritt said he was not surprised by the findings. To come through to the other side of the investigation after years of very close scrutiny, he suggested, is a reflection of how reasonable InterDigital’s licensing programme is. Asked whether the outcome will clear the way for any additional licence agreements, he stated: “We certainly will tout it with folks, but it's not something that was a stumbling block in deals we do.”
The result looks especially good for InterDigital considering that only two weeks ago, the TFTC hit Qualcomm with a record $773m fine for abuse of its SEP patent position. The summary of that decision, which has been translated into English since IAM’s initial reporting on it, faults Qualcomm for refusing to license to rival chipmakers, adopting a “no licence, no chip” policy and offering exclusive rebates to certain implementers. Qualcomm says it will appeal the penalty in Taiwan’s courts.
InterDigital has come through on the other side of several disputes that involved antitrust claims in both China and Taiwan. The company made several commitments in China to get a suspension of an NDRC investigation back in 2014; now the company has a licence deal in place and an R&D relationship with Huawei. That same year, it got into a dispute with a Taiwan-based mobile manufacturer called Arima Communications. Arima filed antitrust lawsuits in both mainland China and Taiwan, as well as a TFTC complaint. The two parties settled in 2015.
The wrap-up of the TFTC inquest lifts a potential cloud over a very impressive stretch for InterDigital and Merritt. Huawei, Apple and Samsung are all under licence, and the company reported recurring revenue during the quarter just ended of $88.5 million, a 5% increase over the same period last year.
With two big decisions out of previously quiet Taiwan and IAM yesterday reporting big divisions within the European Commission over upcoming SEP guidelines, the last couple of weeks have provided plenty of fresh antitrust developments to discuss at IPBC Asia 2017, which kicks off this Sunday at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo. A Monday morning plenary will tackle all this and more.