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Broadcom Ups the Ante in Microtune Legal Dispute

Less than a week after being slapped with an "anti-trust" lawsuit, Broadcom responded to a higher authority.

The Irvine, Calif.-based semiconductor maker Monday filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) accusing rival Microtune of unfair trade practices by importing tuners, power amplifiers and Bluetooth products that infringe two Broadcom patents. If the Commission ultimately agrees to enter an Exclusion Order, Microtune's products in question would be immediately barred from importation into the United States.

The filing is just the latest twist in a bitter legal row between the two companies, which are currently in court settling a two-year patent infringement lawsuit.

Plano, Texas-based Microtune was not immediately available for comment. The company alleges Broadcom engaged in "various illegal anti-competitive activities" such as bundling its tuner together with its demodulator chips in attempts to "exclude Microtune and other competitors from a substantial share of the cable modem market."

The two companies are scheduled to appear in a U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division on one of two copyright infringement lawsuits. Microtune drew first blood against Broadcom in 2002 claiming the semiconductor infringed on one of its tuner patents. The first case went to court in January 2003 and is still pending.

In its latest tussle, Broadcom has asked the ITC to institute an investigation regarding Microtune's alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,445,039B1, entitled "System And Method For ESD Protection" (the '039 patent), and U. S. Patent No. 5,682,379, entitled "Wireless Personal Local Area Network" (the '379 patent).

Broadcom estimates an early April investigation by ITC investigation with an administrative hearing sometime before the end of this year.

Monday's ITC complaint is the third action brought by Broadcom against Microtune in the past eight months. It follows a lawsuit filed on January 24, 2003, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in which Broadcom alleged that Microtune infringes the '039 and '379 patents as well as U.S. Patent No. 6,359,872, which is also entitled "Wireless Personal Local Area Network."

Also, on July 15, 2002 Broadcom filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging that solid-state RF tuner products made by Microtune infringe a fourth Broadcom patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,377,315, entitled "System And Method For Providing A Low Power Receiver Design." Trial in that case is scheduled to begin in January 2004.

Microtune currently holds 23 U.S. patents for its technology, with more than 50 applications pending approval that span its RF and wireless products, containing more than 2000 supporting claims.

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