Judge Keeps Broadcom Patent Claims Local

A federal judge rules that Broadcom and Qualcomm must hold some of their patent dispute over Bluetooth technology in the San Diego courts, instead of taking it to the ITC.

A federal district court in California permanently barred chip maker Broadcom from prosecuting several of its patent infringement claims against Qualcomm before the International Trade Commission, ruling that the dispute must be resolved under the courts own jurisdiction in San Diego.

Judge Rudi M. Brewster said in his ruling the week of Feb. 6 that Broadcom cannot pursue two individual claims from its patent case with the ITC in Washington, or in another California District Court, based on the details of a licensing agreement signed by the companies related to the legal dispute.

The decision does not affect a number of other patent infringement claims brought by Broadcom against Qualcomm before the ITC.

In May 2005, Broadcom launched patent infringement claims with both the ITC and in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., alleging that Qualcomm, a maker of wireless headsets, had violated terms of a licensing agreement signed by the two firms in 2001 regarding Bluetooth wireless communications technologies.

Brewster ruled that any litigation over the two disputed patents in question must be argued in San Diego, as the original agreement had specified.

In its filings, Broadcom charges that Qualcomms current and next-generation cellular and RF (radio-frequency) product lines infringe on a number of its patents.

The chip maker, based in Irvine, Calif., is seeking unspecified monetary damages from Qualcomm, as well as a permanent injunction barring the manufacture and sale of some of the companys integrated circuits, including its "multimedia, enhanced and convergence platform chips" and its QChat VOIP (voice-over-IP) technology for cellular phones, which Broadcom alleges infringe its patents.

/zimages/4/28571.gifQualcomm sues Nokia over its GSM patents. Click here to read more.

When Qualcomm first attempted to move the disputes to San Diego, Broadcom sought an order from the federal courts in Santa Ana prohibiting the move. The Santa Ana court eventually transferred its case to San Diego.

Broadcom representatives said they had not yet received a written copy of Brewsters decision, but said the company "disagrees with the courts interpretation of the licensing agreement," which involved the use of Bluetooth in cellular systems and handsets.

Company spokespeople said Broadcom will continue to pursue its claims against Qualcomm on the two patents in the San Diego court in the interim.

The company pointed out that Brewsters ruling does not affect the three other patents being disputed by Broadcom before the ITC, for which hearings are expected to be held as early as the week of Feb. 13.

The company also noted that it has six other related patent claims against Qualcomm in San Diego, and five other individual claims in the Santa Ana courts, for a total of 16 cases overall.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Broadcoms VOIP chips.

Qualcomm has denied any patent infringement, and contends that the activities questioned by Broadcom were permitted by the licensing agreement. Attorneys for the handset maker said the latest ruling favors Qualcomm in the sense that it defers to the original terms of the pact between the firms.

Broadcom is also pursuing several cases against Qualcomm worldwide. In October 2005, Broadcom and several other firms filed complaints to the European Commission requesting that it investigate Qualcomms business practices based on claims that the handset maker had engaged in anti-competitive conduct via its licensing practices for patents related to 3G mobile technology.

In that complaint, Broadcom charges that Qualcomm violated international regulations by attempting to exclude competing manufacturers of chip sets for mobile phones from the European market.

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