Qualcomm sidesteps injunction with new chipsets

Two days after a U.S. judge banned the sale of its wireless chipsets that the court has found violate a competitor’s patents, Qualcomm has announced four new chipsets that do not infringe on a video encoding patent held by competitor Broadcom.

Qualcomm expects the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) handsets containing the chips to go on sale in the U.S. by April, it said Wednesday.

The announcement comes two days after a U.S. federal judge issued an injunction that stops Qualcomm from selling some wireless chipsets found to infringe on the Broadcom patent.

Under a special provision of the injunction, Qualcomm can continue to use Broadcom’s patented technology in some existing QChat push-to-talk and 1xEV-DO (Evolution-Data Only) products through Jan. 31, 2009, as long as it pays royalties to Broadcom. New products, or existing products sold to new customers, are not covered by the automatic license.

Qualcomm is still developing workarounds for infringing technology included in the QChat and 1xEV-DO products, it said.

Broadcom won a patent infringement suit against Qualcomm in May and was awarded US$19.6 million in damages. However, Broadcom said the injunction — which only applies to chipsets sold in the U.S. — was far more important than the money.

Monday’s injunction, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, also prohibits Qualcomm from some marketing and customer support activities related to WCDMA and EV-DO chips.

Qualcomm said it still wants further clarification on some aspects of the injunction, saying it could affect the company’s product development. The company said it is also considering filing an appeal or for a stay of the injunction.

The two companies still have other patent infringement and antitrust claims pending.

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