US Court Lifts Ban on Qualcomm Phone Imports

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A U.S. appeals court overturned a ruling that prevented Qualcomm's handset-making customers from importing products to the U.S. because they allegedly contain patented technology developed by Broadcom.

The appeals court said the U.S. International Trade Commission had overstepped its bounds when it issued the ban against handset makers who were not named in Broadcom's complaint to the ITC. The appeals court also said the ITC misapplied the legal standard for "induced infringement."

At the same time, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the ITC's finding that the Broadcom patent in question is valid, something Qualcomm had disputed. The appeals court posted the 31-page ruling to its Web site (PDF).

Qualcomm said the court had "disapproved Broadcom's tactic of attacking the wireless industry, including handset manufacturers and wireless operators, without providing them with the opportunity to defend themselves in the action."

But Broadcom also applauded part of the ruling and appeared set to appeal.

"We are pleased that the Court affirmed our patent's validity, the infringement by Qualcomm's customers and the validity of the ITC's claim construction. In light of that, we believe that Qualcomm's continued use of our patented technology would certainly meet the new standard of intent and be found to infringe. We look forward to addressing this issue upon remand to the ITC," Broadcom said.

The ITC's ruling, issued in June last year, applied to new phones developed subsequent to the ruling, and followed an earlier ITC finding that Qualcomm had infringed on Broadcom's patent. The companies that joined Qualcomm in the appeal included Kyocera Wireless, Motorola, LG Electronics and Palm, as well as wireless carriers AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel.

The patent in question, U.S. patent number 6,714,983, describes a technology that helps save battery life when a mobile phone can't find a wireless signal. It can be viewed by searching at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.

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