High-speed cell phones get delayed by Qualcomm court ruling

In a court decision that could dampen deployment of high-speed wireless Internet in the US, Qualcomm has been banned from shipping cell phone chipsets using three technologies judged as belonging to archrival Broadcom.

Many consumers, businesses, and wireless carriers in the US desiring WCDMA or UMTA Internet phones based on Qualcomm chipsets will now need to wait a while, due to a new court ruling announced today in a patent dispute brought against Qualcomm by competing Broadcom.

According to a complicated ruling issued on the last day of December, 2007, Qualcomm will be allowed through January of 2009 to sell Qualcomm QChat and 1xEV-DO chipsets, determined by a jury verdict in May of 2007 to violate Broadcom '010 and '317 patents.

But as of the end of January of next year, Qualcomm will be forever banned from shipping either of these two chipsets into the US market.

Federal District Judge James V. Selna this week also imposed an immediate injunction on US shipments of Qualcomm WCDMA chipsets previously determined by the jury to infringe on Broadcom's '686 video encoding patent.

However, shipment of Qualcomm WCDMA chipsets for countries outside of the US won't be affected by these rulings.

Now in widespread deployment worldwide, WCMDA -- also sometimes referred to as UMTA -- is a cell phone technology used by wireless carriers to supply high-speed Internet connectivity to consumer and business customers. Verizon and Sprint are big customers of Qualcomm's chips in the United States.

In announcing the judgment during a conference call with analysts this morning, Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs acknowledged an "immediate short-term impact," as cell phone customers "transition to new designs."

But Jacobs also said that Qualcomm will have new WCDMA chips which don't infringe on the '686 patents in cell phones by the end of March, 2008.

Also today, Qualcomm announced the immediate availability to cell phone manufacturers of new Qualcomm chipsets which are designed to serve as drop-in replacements to previous chipsets that violated the '686 patent.

In written statements, officials said, too, that workaround technologies for the chipsets infringing the two other patents are currently under development at Qualcomm.

Although Qualcomm will be able to ship chipsets infringing on the '101 and '317 patents through January of next year, the company will also be forced by the court to pay royalties for any US shipments of those chips.

Qualcomm officials also said that they've asked the US Patent Office to re-examine the validity of Broadcom's '317 patent claims, and that they're evaluating a number of other options for obtaining "further relief and clarify from the courts" around this week's ruling -- including legal stays, appeals, and an explanation by the courts as to the impact on the ruling of Verizon's existing license agreement with Broadcom.

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