Qualcomm wins stay of US handset ban


Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 10

A US federal judge halted an import ban on mobile phones by Qualcomm Inc, a rare legal victory in a long-standing patent dispute with rival Broadcom Corp.

Judge Haldane Mayer on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Wednesday granted a request by several mobile phone manufacturers and AT&T Inc's wireless division to stay the ban the federal government ordered in June.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) barred imports of new mobile phone models with Qualcomm chips after determining that the company had violated a patent held by chipmaker Broadcom on battery power-saving technology. The White House refused to overturn the ban last month.

The ITC's ruling applied to chips that are used in high-end phones that can transmit video and data at high speeds. Mayer's decision Wednesday will allow carriers and manufacturers to introduce new phone models later this year.

The order applies only to the seven companies that sought to halt the ban: carriers AT&T and T-Mobile USA Inc and handset makers Motorola Inc, Samsung Electronics Corp, LG Electronics, Kyocera Wireless Corp and Sanyo Fisher Co.

Sprint Nextel Corp was conspicuously missing from the order, but a spokesman for the carrier and a Qualcomm attorney said the carrier could sellphones made by any of the manufacturers covered.

"We think this is an important decision," Sprint Nextel spokesman Matt Sullivan said. "[The ban] was not an appropriate remedy."

Sprint Nextel has sidestepped the ban by selling phones that rely on alternative software. According to San Diego-based Qualcomm, those alternative designs do not infringe on Broadcom's patents.

Verizon Wireless avoided the ban by striking a licensing agreement in July with Irvine, California-based Broadcom.

Numerous companies that use Qualcomm chips in the cellphones they manufacture, including Motorola, Samsung and T-Mobile, appealed the ITC ruling. They argued that since Broadcom only filed its complaint against Qualcomm, the ITC did not have the authority to block imports by companies other than Qualcomm.

The judge agreed with the appealing companies and stayed the ITC's order pending their appeal.

"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals recognized the undeserved harm to parties who were not named in the lawsuit, and that our customers will continue to be able to introduce new products into the US marketplace during the appeals process," said Alex Rogers, Qualcomm's senior vice president and legal counsel.

Broadcom noted that the order does not lift the ban on Qualcomm, only on the carriers and manufacturers that rely on Qualcomm chips. It said it expected the ban would eventually be reinstated.

"We are pleased that Qualcomm will not be permitted to continue its infringement of our patent while [its] appeal proceeds," said David Dull, Broadcom's general counsel.