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Qualcomm vs Broadcom - Litigation or Innovation?

 Qualcomm vs Broadcom 12th June 2007

Last week, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) banned the importation of 3G handsets containing chipsets from Qualcomm into the United States, due to a long-running patent dispute with Broadcom.

The details of the case are complex - and we are Mobile Gazette are not lawyers (our lawyers told us to say that) - but this is the latest in a series of long-running disputes between technology firms that threatens to derail developments in mobile communications.

In this particular case, mobile phones containing 3G chips designed by Qualcomm can no longer be imported into the US - this mainly impacts Motorola, LG and Samsung.

Although 3G is still a very small market segment in the US, it's a growth area that Motorola (in particular) has pinned its hopes on. And because Motorola is the market leader in the United States, it's quite possible that it will have the most to lose out of this ban.

Other manufacturers do not appear to have a problem - in particular Nokia (who don't use the chipsets in question) may be able to gain some crucial market share in this particular niche.

According to a US federal jury, Qualcomm did indeed break some of Broadcom's patents. But this is the latest in a ridiculously long series of lawsuits involving Qualcomm and Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson plus others. Nokia in particular is involved in several lawsuits and counter-suits over various technologies in a bitter fight that might shape the future of 3G services worldwide.

One of the most famous mobile patent disputes in recent times was NTP vs RIM which was settled for a cool $612 million.. but in a deal that save the BlackBerry from extinction stateside. With sums of money this large at stake, is it any wonder that companies are prepared to slug it out?

And although these lawsuits are mostly confined to the US at present, there are some indications that the parties involved are prepared to take the fight into other arenas - such as Europe. If that happens, then there could be a significant impact on consumer choice as manufacturers resort to slogging it out in the courts rather than competing in the marketplace.. something that will not be good news for consumers in the long run.

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