Joke About Qualcomm Settlement Ahead of FTC Trial Isn't Funny to Judge

(Bloomberg) -- At least Qualcomm Inc. had a sense of humor while preparing to face off at trial against a U.S. regulator that’s threatening to upend the company’s dominance of the mobile phone chip market.

But the joke didn’t go over so well with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

A member of Qualcomm’s legal team asked clerks at the federal courthouse in San Jose, California, on Thursday to “settle the case for us,” Koh noted in a filing on the eve of the long-awaited non-jury trial. While Koh said the “statement appears to have been made in jest” and there was no one present from the opposing side, the Federal Trade Commission, the judge reminded attorneys they’re prohibited from discussing the case with the court and its staff outside of the courtroom.

There’s no telling whether an 11th-hour settlement will materialize, but the filing reinforces Koh’s no-nonsense approach to handling the case. Just hours earlier, Koh rebuked Qualcomm for going over her limit on the length of pretrial briefs and warned that any more “oversized” briefs would be stricken from the record.

The trial that’s set to begin Friday at 9 a.m. local time will span 10 days across the month, closing on Jan. 28. The FTC alleges that the San Diego-based company has abused its strength in the market for smartphone components to force Apple Inc. and others to pay inflated license fees.

Qualcomm contends that the U.S. has its facts wrong and has failed to demonstrate any evidence of anti-competitive behavior by the chipmaker against its rivals.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Qualcomm Inc., 17-cv-00220, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.