Case Dismissed: Broadcom’s Legal Bid to Defang Qualcomm Patents

3/16/09Follow @bvbigelow

The lawyers for Irvine, CA-based Broadcom have been on a roll in a protracted legal battle over mobile phone technology patents against San Diego arch-rival Qualcomm, including one case that led to sanctions last year.

But Broadcom’s lawyers misfired in a lawsuit filed against Qualcomm just five months ago. The suit broadly alleged that Qualcomm was over-asserting its rights on patents that were “exhausted” and unenforceable.

Qualcomm said today that a San Diego federal judge dismissed Broadcom’s case Friday. In his nine-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes says Broadcom did not identify any specific patents at issue in its allegations—and the judge notes Qualcomm holds more than 6,000 wireless patents and patent applications. The judge also writes that Broadcom’s suit does not say Broadcom purchases Qualcomm chips or sell handsets equipped with Qualcomm technology, so “the alleged injuries for which Broadcom seeks relief are speculative.”

Broadcom had alleged that Qualcomm’s patents were exhausted by a “double-recovery scheme” that enabled Qualcomm to get paid once when it sells chipsets (or a licensed manufacturer sells chipsets) and again when handset makers pay Qualcomm a licensing fee. Hayes dismissed the case without prejudice, which means Broadcom could revise its case and try again.

Broadcom and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a series of legal disputes in the United States as well as the International Trade Commission. Last September, a U.S. appeals court affirmed that Qualcomm infringed two patents and upheld an injunction in favor of Broadcom. But a federal appeals court later ruled in Qualcomm’s favor in one of the three patents at issue.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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