Earlier this week, a couple of significant things happened in the clash of the com’s. Broadcom and Qualcomm have been lobbing accusations back and forth for some time now in a variety of legal arenas. Qualcomm has sued Broadcom regarding the infringement of two patents for video compression technology, and Broadcom has pursued an action through the International Trade Commission (ITC) to stop the importation of infringing cellphones from overseas (Broadcom’s patent is for a technology that conserves cellphone batteries when the phone is out of service range). The hearing before the ITC was particularly interesting because the Commission heard testimony from Congressmen, academics, and the parties themselves. The issue at hand was to assess the scope of penalties, i.e. whether the exclusion order should apply just to the offending chips or be broadened to include the offending phones as well. According to National Journal’s Technology Daily (subscription required), Representative Darrell Issa (Rep – CA) (famed for crafting the pilot patent court proposal) appeared to be supportive of broader protection patent holders’ rights. On the flip side, Representative Adam Schiff (Dem – CA) deemed the protection of patent holders’ to be outweighed by the impact on the public interest given that other remedies are available (presumably he meant monetary damages). Both Francis Edwards, a professor at San Jose State University, and Simon Wilkie, executive director of the Center for Communications Law and Policy were of the opinion that the impact on the public would be minimal. Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor urged the ITC to prevent the importation of all products containing the infringing technology, and condemned post hoc reasoning that says “if someone infringes my patent a little, I can get a remedy, but if they infringe it a lot, I can’t.” While the parties await a ruling from the ITC, Broadcom scored a victory in the Southern District of California. As reported by the International Herald Tribune, Judge Rudi Brewster stated that Qualcomm had waived its rights to enforce the two patents at issue. The reasoning for such a decision was that Qualcomm had a duty to disclose the patents to the panel who created the industry standard in 2003. Pretty strong language used by Judge Brewster. The two actions are not related directly, but are an excellent illustration of both the game of corporate ‘tag’ that goes on between competitors and the varied forums where the game is played.

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