A mobile phone industry association has urged US president George Bush to overturn the ban on the import of Qualcomm phones to the US that was recently imposed by regulators.
The ban, ordered by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on 7 June, can be vetoed by the president within 60 days of the ruling. But presidents have rarely overturned such decisions.
Steve Largent, president and chief executive at the Cellular Telecommunications and Industry Association, wrote to Bush, telling him the ban would "freeze innovation" in US wireless networks and adversely affect public safety.
The ban would also hinder the mobile industry's efforts to improve emergency 911 services, Largent wrote. This was because the ban only covered future phone models while allowing existing phones to continue to reach the market, he argued. As a result, new technologies that can allow better pinpointing of emergency callers would not be imported if the ban was left to stand.
Largent painted a broad picture of woe across the industry that could result from the ban. He stated: "Substantial investments will be stranded and jobs will be lost if the ITC importation ban is allowed to stand.”
According to Largent, the ban would force the redesign of all handsets that use the chips, a process that could take up to two years and cost millions of dollars. Such a process could reduce the international competitiveness of the companies and pass on costs to consumers.
The ban is a result of a patent feud between Qualcomm and Broadcom. The ITC ruling follows an earlier finding that Qualcomm infringed on a Broadcom patent related to power management. The ITC took unusual steps in order to develop the parameters of the ban, holding hearings with the two companies and inviting ideas from the industry.
It is rare for the ITC to allow the importation of products that have been found to infringe intellectual property. The only similar cases historically have involved products that could directly harm lives if they became unavailable.
If the president does not overturn the ban, Qualcomm can appeal against the decision in the courts. The company has already said it would be prepared to do this. But such appeals are rarely upheld.
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