US bans future Qualcomm phone imports

The US International Trade Commission has banned Qualcomm from importing future phones using its 3G chips, in a blow to the vendor in its patent battle with rival Broadcom.

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The US International Trade Commission has banned Qualcomm from importing future phones using its 3G chips, in a blow to the vendor in its patent battle with rival Broadcom.

Qualcomm was ordered to pay $20m (£10m) in damages for infringing three Broadcom patents after a US jury verdict last month. The court case was part of a string of patent disputes between Broadcom, which is relatively new to the mobile phone chip business, and Qualcomm

Under the ITC ruling, new models of phones and PDAs that include certain Qualcomm chips cannot be imported to the US. The commission decided to limit the ban to forthcoming phones because banning all phones with Qualcomm chips would be against the public interest and could hurt the economy, it said.

But banning the chips and not the phones would offer little relief to Broadcom since not many chips are imported. The compromise was designed to be acceptable to companies that buy the phones while still offering relief to Broadcom, the ITC said.

The ruling follows a commission finding late last year that Qualcomm had infringed on a Broadcom power management patent. The technology helps save battery life when a mobile phone cannot find a wireless signal. Broadcom has said that essentially all third generation EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimised) and WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) phones use it.

The ban follows a hearing before the ITC on 21 May, when Broadcom asked the commission to ban all handsets with Qualcomm's WCDMA and EV-DO chips, excluding smartphones, PDAs and laptop cards. Qualcomm asked the commission to consider the affect such a ban would have on consumers and emergency response agencies.

The ban is effective immediately and becomes final in 60 days.

Qualcomm said it would try to persuade US President George Bush to overturn the decision. The president has 60 days to review the ITC ruling, but analysts said Bush was unlikely to overturn the decision.

Smith Brittingham, a former investigative attorney with the ITC, said: "It would be difficult for the president to criticise what the commission has done in terms of the attempt to balance public interest factors."

Broadcom said it was pleased with the ITC ruling.

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