Thursday, June 7, 2007

Broadcom 3, Qualcomm 0

6/7/7 is Broadcom’s lucky day. After winning a December case over one patent before America’s International Trade Commission, Broadcom today convinced the ITC to ban the import of any new cell phones with Qualcomm chips.

Yes, existing models are grandfathered in, but the impact of the ruling is still dire for Qualcomm. The ban will not only prevent LG and Samsung from introducing new CDMA phones in the US, but it will also cause AT&T (or T-Mobile) to rule out any W-CDMA phones with Qualcomm chips.

Needless to say, Broadcom was quite pleased with the ruling, and used it to spin its position that the commodity chip producer was wronged by the company that invented CDMA:
In this case, Qualcomm and its customers have been importing products that use Broadcom's valuable intellectual property without permission. As Broadcom continues to develop cutting edge wired and wireless communications and multimedia products that enable the convergence and communications trends that are touching consumers in their daily lives, we are gratified to know that the results of our investments and hard work will be protected from infringers like Qualcomm.
With a gun to Qualcomm’s head, Reuters reports that “Broadcom Corp. said on Thursday it is open to discussions for Qualcomm Inc. to license its technology patent.” Broadcom’s goal has always been to break Qualcomm’s business model — to get it to budge on its full-royalty-for-all policy. The ITC victory is its best shot ever to do so.

No word on how hard it would be for Qualcomm to invent around the one patent (6,714,983), i.e. produce a non-infringing chip. Last month, Qualcomm also lost a Federal case (litigated on Broadcom’s home turf) over three other patents (6,847,686; 6,389,010; and 5,657,317).

Qualcomm must comply with the ITC order while appealing the original verdict, so now it faces the dilemma of solving the immediate problem vs. continuing to fight in hopes of an eventual win.

No word on what Qualcomm said at its 3:30 p.m press conference, but the stock lost about $2 billion in market cap today. Overall, the stock is down about 9% since its peak last month at slightly over $46.

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