U.S. Case Against Qualcomm’s Patent Monopoly Kicked Off Today
Perhaps the biggest and highest profile feud in the world of mobile technology today is the slugfest between Qualcomm and Apple that's been underway for a few years now. Apple owes Qualcomm multiple billions of dollars (many reports put the figure around $7 billion USD) in licensing fees. Apple, for its part, has launched formal lawsuits against the maker of all things Snapdragon, alleging that the fees charged for the multitude of patents are absurd and amount to extortion.
The U.S. case against Qualcomm will define the company's future (and its stock price)
The United States government has long been looking into whether or not Qualcomm offers its key-mobile industry patents at a fair market price. Today, in a federal district courtroom, that of the honorable Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, prosecutors opened up what is expected to be a 10-day non-jury trial to find if Qualcomm is guilty of engaging in anti-competitive practices or not.
The implications of the trial are massive. Should the federal prosecutors fail to convince the judge that Qualcomm is acting illegally, then Apple might be looking at shelling out upwards of $7 billion to their embittered enemy, not to mention future payments which could even increase. Should the judge rule against Qualcomm then an entire floodgate will open as previously Q-com has decided to not issue patent licenses to say, Samsung, for modem technology required for usage in the United States.
So, while its formally the U.S. government going after Qualcomm, a win for federal prosecutors will certainly be a win for Apple. Should Qualcomm be found guilty, Apple's market sentiment and outlook could soar.
For Qualcomm itself, this is quite the existential crisis! Should things go south in the courtroom, they face a massive decline in revenue. For a firm that gets the majority of its sales from IP and patent licensing fees, this is a huge liability.
As every report out there says this is a 10-day trial, and things kicked off today, can we reasonably expect a ruling by the 18th of this month? It's hard to say at this point. The trial could wrap in 10 days but the judge could deliberate for quite some time.
As this is such a huge trial for Qualcomm, a massive swing up or down could be somewhat expected for the company's stock.. any option traders out there might be eying a call/put straddle (or a strangle if you are leaning one way or the other!) to capture any large price swing after the outcome of the trial is released. The trick here will be finding the correct timing.