Thursday, March 2, 2017 - At least two dozen lawsuits are set to appear before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation this month to determine whether actions filed against tech manufacturer Qualcomm will be transferred into an MDL. More tag-along actions are likely to be included in the transfer order if the lawsuits end up being consolidated. The litigation centers on accusations made by Apple and other cell phone manufacturers that have accused Qualcomm of fixing the price of chipsets used in the phones. Qualcomm has denied the claims.
The antitrust behavior that the plaintiffs have alleged Qualcomm to be guilty of is related to modern chipsets manufactured by qualcomm that Apple and other cell phone manufacturers claim have not been priced appropriately because of Qualcomm‘s industrial advantage and sizable share of the market. Qualcomm controls roughly 80 percent of the chipset market that the cell phone manufacturers rely to build their products, and the allegations claim that Qualcomm sets illegal prices and licensing guidelines for those products.
The accusations against Qualcomm actually emanated from Korea, which fined the company over $800 million for their alleged antitrust behavior regarding the chipsets. This action was then followed up upon in the U.S. with Apple leading the charge over the Qualcomm chipsets the company uses in its iPhone products.
Both sides in the multidistrict litigation have publicly appealed for the actions to be centralized in California where the lawsuits have been filed. Lawsuits from the plaintiffs have been filed in San Francisco, in the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and San Diego, in the jurisdiction of the of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Qualcomm has lobbied for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California as that is where the company is headquartered, while Apple and some of the other private plaintiffs are located in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Multidistrict Litigation is usually necessary when a large number of lawsuits that share similar questions of fact in their allegations against a defendant would be better served if centralized before a single federal judge. The process allows for the pretrial proceedings to be streamlined and for counsel on both sides of the conflict to pool resources to help the trial move expediently toward a resolution. The lawsuits are not joined together as in a class action, but remain individual lawsuits all pooled before a single federal judge.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will make a determination following the hearing session on whether or not to consolidate the Qualcomm chipset litigation. It is likely that the litigation will be centralized given the number of lawsuits and the similar questions of fact they share, although sometimes the proceedings that have already taken place have progressed to the point that the JPML doesn‘t feel the need to burden an MDL docket with proceedings that can be resolved on their own. The ruling on whether the motion will be transferred will coming a week or two after the hearing session.