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Court Issues Injunction Against Broadcom's Tuner

A U.S. court Thursday issued a preliminary injunction that prevents Broadcom from selling one of its semiconductors in the United States.

The District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division said Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom is barred from selling its BCM3415 silicon tuner and certain reference design boards containing the technology. The injunction comes after a ruling last month that found Broadcom "willfully" infringed on rival Microtune's patent for its single-chip tuner technology.

The '035 patent covers technology found in Plano, Texas-based Microtune's MicroTuner single-chip tuner, which allows for high-speed delivery of video, voice and data across broadband communications electronics, including cable modems, set-top boxes, digital TVs, cable telephony systems and PC/TVs.

In addition, the Court ruled that Broadcom's officers, employees, agents, and "all persons in active concert or participation therewith who receive notice" of the injunction order are enjoined from infringing Microtune's patent by selling, offering for sale, or importing into the U.S. the BCM3415 tuner from Broadcom. The Court additionally noted that "products merely colorably different" from the infringing BCM3415 tuner would be deemed to fall under the injunction order.

"We are very pleased by the Court's actions," Microtune chairman and CEO Douglas Bartek said in a statement. "This preliminary injunction and the Court's affirmation of our patent rights demonstrate that our U.S. patent system works. "

In a statement, Broadcom said the injunction applies only to its tuner activity in the United States, where it does little business, and that silicon tuners are only a "small" part of its overall business structure.

The two companies have been locked in legal battles for several years. During the two-year course of this patent infringement dispute, Broadcom has filed a number of allegations against Microtune in countersuits and petitions including filing unfair trade practices with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

The injunction is not expected to impact antitrust allegations filed by Microtune against Broadcom nor does it have bearing on a separate patent infringement suit Broadcom has filed against Microtune.

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.

A second case Broadcom filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is seeking 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 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.