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Court finds Qualcomm guilty of standards abuse

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Qualcomm kept its patents on H.264 a secret until the video standard had been adopted by the industry, and then sued users for breaching those patents, a San Diego federal court has ruled.

Qualcomm was an active member of the Joint Video Team (JVT) which defined the H.264 video standard, now used extensively in mobile phone video applications. But while doing so it failed to mention owning at least two patents which anyone implementing the standard would need to license.

When Broadcom started development of chips using the standard, Qualcomm, "without any prior letter, email, telephone call, or even a smoke signal, let alone attempt to license Broadcom, Qualcomm filed the instant lawsuit against Broadcom for infringement of the '104 and '767 patents", the court said.

The court ruling states that by its actions Qualcomm has waived any right to the contested patents, and goes on to say: "By clear and convincing evidence [Qualcomm], its employees, and its witnesses actively organised and/or participated in a plan to profit heavily by (1) wrongfully concealing the patents-in-suit while participating in the JVT and then (2) actively hiding this concealment from the court, the jury and opposing counsel during the present litigation."

Qualcomm has reiterated an apology made in April "for the errors made during discovery and for the inaccurate testimony of certain of its witnesses", but disputes the idea that companies should be made to reveal patents when discussing or setting industry standards.

Qualcomm is expected to appeal the decision. ®

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