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BlackBerry awarded $814.9 million royalty refund from Qualcomm

Mobile device manufacturer BlackBerry has been awarded $814.9 million plus interest and legal fees in an arbitration settlement over royalty payments it made to semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm.13 Apr 2017

The arbitration related to a contract dispute over whether Qualcomm's voluntary per-unit royalty cap program applied to BlackBerry's non-refundable prepayments of royalties for sales of subscriber units between 2010 and the end of 2015.

The San Diego, California arbitrator ruled that BlackBerry had overpaid the royalty fees to Qualcomm between 2010 and 2015, Qualcomm said in a statement.

The settlement could encourage other companies to challenge Qualcomm's royalties, said intellectual property expert Iain Connor of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"Qualcomms’ market power in the semiconductor field is a continuing source of frustration for many companies that are dependent on Qualcomm components," Connor said. "The fact that an arbitration has ruled in favour of Blackberry for a refund of overpaid royalties should give others confidence to challenge the licence fees being levied."

In its statement,  Qualcomm said that it did not agree with the decision, but confirmed it is binding and not appealable. It saidL "The arbitration decision was limited to prepayment provisions unique to BlackBerry's licence agreement with Qualcomm and has no impact on agreements with any other licensee."

John Chen, BlackBerry chief executive, said: "BlackBerry and Qualcomm have a longstanding relationship and continue to be valued technology partners. We are pleased the arbitration panel ruled in our favour and look forward to collaborating with Qualcomm in security for ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) and solutions for the automotive industry."

A final award including interest and "reasonable attorneys' fees" will be issued after a hearing on 30 May, BlackBerry said.