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Broadcom Sues Microtune over Patents

After adding and dropping key executives like flies over the past few week including its President and CEO Henry Nicholas, Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom Corp. filed a complaint against Texas-based Microtune, Inc. alleging infringement on patents related to tuners, power amplifiers, and Bluetooth products.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, seeks monetary damages and a permanent injunction against the manufacture and sale of devices that Broadcom feels infringe on electrostatic discharge protection circuits and other wireless technologies.

The patents in question are No. 6,445,039B1, titled "System And Method For ESD Protection," and No. 5,682,379 and 6,359,872, both titled "Wireless Personal Local Area Network."

Microtune develops integrated radio frequency-based solutions for broadband and wireless communications.

This is the second patent infringement lawsuit Broadcom has brought against Microtune over the past year. Although Microtune first filed a lawsuit against Broadcom claiming the semiconductor infringed on one of its tuner patents. That lawsuit will go to trial in January of this year.

In July 2002, Broadcom returned the slam by filing a suit in Texas alleging that certain RF tuner products, different from the ones Microtune claims Broadcom infringed on, willfully infringed on Broadcom's patent, No. 6,377,315, titled "System And Method For Providing A Low Power Receiver Design."

That suit will go to trial in March 2003.

No trial date has yet been set for Broadcom's most recent infringement suit against Microtune.

Representatives for Broadcom were not able to speak on specifics related to any of the outstanding lawsuits.

Broadcom currently has 250 U.S. patents under its belt, out of which 100 relate to tuner, mixed signal, and wireless technologies.

In the wake of nine consecutive losing quarters, which led the semiconductor to cut 16 percent of its workforce in November 2002, Broadcom recently completed an internal reorganization effort that it began last year during a slump in demand for corporate telecommunications and networking equipment. That reorganization included the appointment of four vice presidents to manage business units which have replaced the company's networking, carrier access, and home networking units.

In addition to the unexpected resignation of the company's longtime helmsman Henry Nicholas, Broadcom also announced that executives Martin Colombatto and Tim Lindenfelser were on leaves of absence.

Broadcom reported a fourth quarter loss last week of $1.76 billion compared with a loss of $329.6 million last year.