Yesterday, the Bush administration decided to uphold a June decision from the US International Trade Commission that bans chips made by Qualcomm Inc. that violate a Broadcom Corp. patent. This does not look like good news for Qualcomm and those of us who want to see more 3G mobile devices in the United States. Qualcomm will appeal the decision, but the Forbes article states that a reversal of a US ITC decision hasn't been made for 20 years. The CTIA had called on a veto of the ban by President Bush and stated that the ITC ban would costs U.S. consumers and producers an estimated $4.3 to $21.1 billion, and will cause billions more in lost productivity across the U.S. economy.
It seems that Qualcomm has been in court off and on since at least 2003 challenging other companies who they believe were violating their patents and it looks like they may be getting a taste of their own medicine after the ITC ruling stated they violated Broadcom's patents. A search on ZDNet reveals that Qualcomm sued Texas Instruments in July 2003, then TI sued Qualcomm in September 2003, followed by lots of legal wrangling between Nokia and Qualcomm that resulted in a minor settlement made by Nokia for some patents. There were other patent disputes the last few years between Qualcomm and others, but this latest ITC investigation that started in 2006 may be the most damaging to the U.S. wireless data industry.
Verizon Wireless may have been the carrier that this ban affected the most, but they took precautionary actions and have signed licensing deals with Broadcom to avoid the import ban on their devices. They agreed to pay Broadcom US$6 for each phone that carries a patent-infringing Qualcomm chip. Sprint, Samsung, and LG Electronics may also be hit hard with this import ban, unless they too can work out deals with Broadcom.
I wonder if this Qualcomm ban issue is the reason why carriers recently released EV-DO devices without the EV-DO, Rev A software support and stated it will be provided with a future update?