Microtune Wins One in Patent Disputes

A Texas jury Thursday ruled in favor of Microtune in one of several patent infringement complaints between itself and chipmaker Broadcom .

At the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, the jury found Microtune’s patent (No. 5,737,035) was valid and that Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom is infringing. The jury characterized Broadcom’s violation as “willful.”

The court is expected to schedule a hearing within 30 days to consider granting an injunction and to determine the amount of damages.

The ‘035 patent covers the development of ‘a highly integrated silicon tuner on a single microcircuit’. Plano, Texas-based Microtune claimed it began developing in 1996 and launched publicly as the MicroTuner single-chip tuner in January 1999. The MicroTuner tuner offered a miniature, universal solution for the 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.

“Microtune pioneered the development of the single-chip tuner, the result of years of revolutionary research and development in the radio-frequency silicon field. The jury’s verdict supports the importance and value of intellectual property rights and underscores the truly inventive technology,” Microtune chairman and CEO Douglas Bartek said in a statement.

Broadcom execs were not immediately available for comment.

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).

Today’s ruling is also 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.”

That trial date has not been set.

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.

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