Broadcom sues Qualcomm over ‘fixed’ standards bodies

Broadcom has sued Qualcomm, claiming the company abused at least three standards bodies in a bid to get its patented technology into industry specifications and license it unfairly.

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Broadcom has sued Qualcomm, claiming the company abused at least three standards bodies in a bid to get its patented technology into industry specifications and license it unfairly.

Qualcomm put paid representatives in groups that set standards, and pushed to get its own technology into those standards, without informing the organisations as it was required to do, Broadcom alleged.

The lawsuit involves the IEEE 802.20 mobile broadband specification, the H.264 video standard, and the Universal Mobile Telecommunication System specification for third-generation mobile data. Broadcom may bring in charges about other standards as it learns more about Qualcomm's actions, said David Rosmann, vice president for intellectual property litigation at Broadcom.

Most official technology standards are crafted by working groups of engineers from various vendors. They can include essential technology patented by these companies, but the participants are generally expected to license that intellectual property on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" basis. Broadcom has made charges, among other things, that Qualcomm got its technology into standards and then gave better licensing deals to users of its own chips than to other vendors.

Broadcom is seeking damages as well as injunctions to keep Qualcomm from asserting its patents in the standards and to force a stop to the company's practices, Rosmann said.

Qualcomm's actions regarding H.264 came out through Broadcom's defence against a patent suit by Qualcomm, Rosmann said. Last month, a jury in that case ruled that Qualcomm failed to disclose two patents to the Joint Video Team standards group even though it had a clear duty to do so. Qualcomm said it did not violate the group's written policy on intellectual policy.

The IEEE 802.20 working group was reorganised last year after allegations of impropriety, including that the group's chairman was paid by Qualcomm, which he later confirmed.

"They have a number of different schemes that they use to tilt the playing field," Rosmann said.

This latest suit is only the latest in a series of legal salvos between the rival communications chip vendors. The case is not likely to go to trial for another year or two, Rossman said. Qualcomm also is embroiled in a dispute with handset maker Nokia. The company, which helped pioneer Code-Division Multiple Access technology, is known for its strict licensing policies.

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