By Corbin K. Barthold, Senior Litigation Counsel at Washington Legal Foundation.

In 2017 the Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm for antitrust violations. In May a federal trial judge in San Jose ruled for the FTC and imposed broad restrictions on how Qualcomm may sell its technology and its products. Qualcomm’s appeal is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Qualcomm case has sparked dissent within the FTC and incited a public feud between the FTC and the Department of Justice. It has laid bare some of the more glaring flaws of our nation’s giant, wasteful, unmanageable government apparatus.

No one reform can fix those flaws. The Qualcomm case shows, however, that we might do well to start with the judge-made limits on the president’s removal power.

A Weak Antitrust Lawsuit

Qualcomm has long been a major inventor of cellular technology. Every mobile phone uses technology Qualcomm created and patented. Some of these patents are “standard essential”: they claim inventions that standards organizations, seeking to ensure that all mobile phones can operate on a common network, have adopted as industry norms. To convince a standards organization to adopt its patented technology as an industry norm, a company must agree to license use of the technology on “FRAND” terms—terms that are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory.