U.S. News

U.S. Bans Some Cell Phones in Qualcomm Patent Case


The U.S. International Trade Commission ordered a ban on Thursday of some imported cell phone models containing Qualcomm chips that infringe on a Broadcom patent.

The import ban covers new cell phone models that contain the infringing chips, but also exempts those imported for sale to the general public on or before the June 7, 2007 date of its order, the ITC said.

"The commission determined that barring importation of downstream products, with an exemption for certain previously imported models, will substantially reduce the burdens imposed on third parties while affording meaningful relief to the patent holder," the ITC said in its order.

ITC is an independent federal agency with the authority to determine whether imported products infringe U.S. patents, trade marks or copyrights.

Four of the ITC's six commissioners voted in favor of the remedy. The remaining two dissented, arguing for a less stringent remedy against Qualcomm.

Qualcomm shares rose Friday.

Spokesmen at both companies were not immediately available for comment.

Broadcom asked the ITC to impose a ban on U.S. sales of infringing Qualcomm chips and high-speed wireless cell phones that include those chips.

Qualcomm, the dominant supplier of chips for cell phones based on CDMA, the most widely used U.S. cellular technology, has filed lawsuits against Broadcom. It also designs chips based on W-CMDA, a popular technology in Europe.

An ITC administrative judge concluded in October that Qualcomm had infringed a Broadcom patent, but stopped short of recommending a ban on U.S. sales of cell phones with Qualcomm chips.

Wireless carriers are concerned about the prospect of an import ban because cell phones use a technology called EV-DO contained in Qualcomm's chips to access data, music and video services.

The ITC said on Thursday that banning all wireless devices containing the infringing chips would "adversely affect the public interest" and be too burdensome on wireless carriers and other third parties. But it also said a remedy that did not affect any of them would be inadequate.