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Qualcomm IPR gravy train hits the buffers

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Comment Qualcomm had yet another setback in the courtroom this week, as Broadcom was awarded $19.64m in damages for incorporating Broadcom technology in its baseband chips and software.

The award came from a Jury trial in the US District Court in Santa Ana, California, which also found that three Broadcom patents are valid and that Qualcomm's infringement was willful, allowing the court to increase the damages up to three times the amount awarded by the jury. Broadcom will now ask the court for an injunction barring Qualcomm from further infringement of the three patents.

"We are very pleased with the jury's verdict, and gratified that the jurors were able to absorb and evaluate very technical material and arrive at the conclusion that Qualcomm once again is improperly utilizing our patented technology covering cellular baseband solutions," said David Dull, Broadcom's Senior Vice President and General Counsel. The first of the three patents relate to a single chip being able to talk to two separate wireless networks, and the jury found that Qualcomm used the multimode invention in its EV-DO baseband chips.

A second patent relates to a particular chip architecture for video processing and the jury found that Qualcomm used this architecture on its enhanced multimedia chip platforms.

The final patent was about how the same chip can work on both fixed and variable bandwidth networks, which is embedded in Qualcomm push to talk QChat software.

In December the US International Trade Commission (ITC) found that Qualcomm's 3G cellular baseband chips infringe a Broadcom patent related to power-saving technology and a decision on the remedy for that infringement is imminent.

In January a court threw out a complaint by Qualcomm which claimed that Broadcom was improperly using patents which are embedded in the H.264 codec standard. That court found Qualcomm had waived its right to enforce the patents by the simple act of never mentioning the patents to the standards body which set the standard, and that decision could also backfire on Qualcomm further when that court considers remedies for that omission in June.

There was a patent pool put together for essential H.264 patents which included everyone that helped build the H.264 technology except Qualcomm. The signatories to that patent pooling agreement included Daewoo, France Telecom, the Fraunhofer institute, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Philips, LG Electronics, LSI Logic, Matsushita, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sharp, Siemens, Sony, Toshiba and JVC to name but a few. H.264 technology is at the heart of devices like iPods, DVRs, set tops, DVD players and where video enabled, cellular handsets.

Broadcom still has a number of anti-trust actions one which failed, but is being appealed in the US, and one filed with other complainants in Europe and another in Korea.

In essence, the tide is turning against Qualcomm’s practice of deliberately manipulating its ownership of key patents within industry standards, and its peculiar licensing approach of licensing all or none of its technology together in a single license, often at rates five or six time that of other patents that are considered essential in the same process.

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