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Court Ties Broadcom's Qualcomm Hands

UPDATED: In the latest chapter of a long-running courtroom battle between rival 3G chipmakers, a San Diego federal judge handed down a preliminary injunction ruling Broadcom cannot use or disseminate confidential Qualcomm WCDMA trade secrets, according to San Diego-based Qualcomm .

The prohibition remains in effect until at least the completion of a trial expected to wrap up in October 2007.

"Qualcomm is pleased with the injunction against Broadcom prohibiting any use of our confidential information, as well as the prohibition against future attempts to obtain such information," William Sailer, Qualcomm's senior vice president and legal counsel, said in a statement.

The court order followed what Qualcomm said was the discovery that Broadcom engaged in prior to unveiling its own WCDMA products "in a successful multi-year effort to improperly acquire thousands of pages of Qualcomm confidential business and technical information" related to the San Diego-based company's own WCDMA product development.

Broadcom had an entirely different view.

"Today's press release from Qualcomm is misleading in several fundamental respects," Bill Blanning, a Broadcom spokesperson told internetnews.com.

Broadcom called the preliminary injunction "far narrower in scope" than the injunction Qualcomm had requested Oct. 2 before San Diego federal judge Rudi Brewster. At that hearing, Broadcom said it volunteered to a preliminary injunction quarantining a "limited set of Qualcomm documents" until the case reaches trial.

Blanning said the documents Broadcom agreed to quarantine were "a small fraction of those originally identified by Qualcomm."

The federal court ruling forbids Broadcom from using the information gained in the "marketing, sales or development" of current or future products, according to a Qualcomm statement.

"Broadcom has not misused any Qualcomm trade secrets, so the quarantine until trial will have no effect on our business," Blanding said.

The federal court ruling forbids Broadcom from using the information gained in the "marketing, sales or development" of current or future products, according to a Qualcomm statement.

The preliminary injunction comes one month after another courtroom loss for Broadcom. In September, a New Jersey federal court dismissed a 2005 antitrust lawsuit Broadcom filed against Qualcomm.

The issue: what Broadcom sees as unfair licensing by Qualcomm amounting to attempted monopolization of 3G chipsets.

New Jersey judge Mary Cooper rejected the Irvine, Calif. Broadcom's arguments, saying they did not "support an inference that competition in the UMTS chipset market, is or will be injured by Qualcomm's licensing practices."

Since 2005, Qualcomm and Broadcom have engaged in a war-of-words over the lucrative 3G market. Broadcom must negotiate with Qualcomm for licensing patented Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) technology.

That original lawsuit held Qualcomm reneged on representations it would license the WCDMA patents, now part of the UMTS 3G standard, in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) manner.

Broadcom charged that its inability to license the technology essentially prevented its competing WCDMA products from reaching market.

Soon after that first patent lawsuit, Qualcomm responded with its own court action, filing a lawsuit alleging Broadcom infringed on six patents relating to chips used in GSM and Wi-Fi devices.