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Court lifts import ban on phones with Qualcomm chips

Appellate court's decision is the latest in a long-running stream of legal battles between Qualcomm and Broadcom.

Updated at 11:34 a.m. PT to include Broadcom statement

A U.S. appellate court has reversed an import ban on certain cell phones with chips made by Qualcomm, ruling that the U.S. International Trade Commission overstepped its authority in a 2007 decision.

Last year, the ITC ruled that certain new models of 3G wireless handsets with Qualcomm chipsets could not be imported because they infringed on a Broadcom patent. An appellate court stayed the ban in September, pending appeal.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its decision (PDF). The appellate court upheld the ITC's ruling about the patent's validity. However, it reversed the import ban because Broadcom filed a complaint only against Qualcomm. The ITC could not ban products made by "downstream manufacturers who were not named as respondents in Broadcom's initial complaint," the appellate court ruled.

"Qualcomm is very pleased with the court's opinion," Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm's general counsel, said in a statement. "In effect, the court has disapproved Broadcom's tactic of attacking the wireless industry, including handset manufacturers and wireless operators, without providing them with the opportunity to defend themselves in the action."

In a statement, Broadcom said the company was "pleased that the Court affirmed our patent's validity, the infringement by Qualcomm's customers and the validity of the ITC's claim construction."

"In light of that, we believe that Qualcomm's continued use of our patented technology would certainly meet the new standard of intent and be found to infringe," the company said.

For years, Qualcomm and Broadcom have been engaged in legal battles over various patents. Earlier this month, Broadcom sued Qualcomm in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleging that Qualcomm's sales and licensing practices amount to patent misuse.