ITC: Qualcomm Violated Broadcom Patent

By Ed Sutherland

December 12, 2006

UPDATED: The International Trade Commission says Qualcomm can import handsets, for now.

UPDATED: Rival chipmakers Qualcomm  and Broadcom  were both declaring victory after an U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that even though Qualcomm violated Broadcom's patent, it refused to ban U.S. imports of cell phones using Qualcomm chips.

Broadcom hailed the decision by the ITC court to uphold a ruling by administrative law judge Charles Bullock as a victory for patent rights.

Qualcomm viewed the legal finding positively, claiming the patent, which describes a "modular, portable data-processing terminal for use in a communications network," doesn't directly affect its core CDMA chip  technology.

The ITC will reconvene in February to rule on a remedy, which could include barring U.S. imports of phones using the Qualcomm chips.

Broadcom said the ITC's recent decision confirmed Qualcomm wasn't playing fair.

"Qualcomm expects other companies to respect and pay dearly for the use of its intellectual property, but refuses to respect the intellectual property of others," said David Dull, Broadcom's senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement.

"The commission's decision is an important step toward leveling that lopsided view."

Dull said it would aggressively enforce the patent against Qualcomm and continue to pursue the current ITC complaint.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm downplayed the impact on its business or phones using its 3G chips and urged the ITC to use this month's ruling when it hands down a remedy next year.

If the ITC remedy upholds the rejection of any ban on phone imports, "the commission's ruling would not have a disruptive effect on Qualcomm's business," because Broadcom's patent "is not fundamental to CDMA," said Louis Lupin, Qualcomm's senior vice president and corporate lawyer, in a statement.

Any ban on phone imports could harm the public interest, argued Qualcomm. A ban would hurt the U.S. consumers' ability to access 3G, as well as put E911 emergency services in harm, warned Emily Kilpatrick, a Qualcomm spokeswoman.

However, Broadcom has claimed the patented technology is actually at the heart of Qualcomm's phone platforms.

The see-saw-like legal battle between the mobile chipmakers began last year, when Broadcom slapped Qualcomm with an antitrust lawsuit over WCDMA's inclusion in the UMTS 3G standard.

Broadcom, which also makes 3G chips, claimed Qualcomm wouldn't fairly license the patents.

Qualcomm responded with its own patent infringement lawsuit against Broadcom, alleging its competitor infringed GSM and Wi-Fi patents.

Broadcom in October was enjoined from using or discussing Qualcomm WCDMA trade secrets.



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