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Qualcomm and Broadcom go at it again

Two months after Broadcom filed suit, Qualcomm fires back, claiming the cell phone chipmaker infringed on its patents.

Qualcomm Communications International and Broadcom are keeping their lawyers busy this summer, as the companies take turns filing patent infringement lawsuits against each other.

On Monday, Qualcomm, a developer of cellular and wireless technology, filed suit in federal court in San Diego against chipmaker Broadcom for allegedly infringing on seven of its patents.

This isn't the first legal tussle between the two companies. Back in May, Broadcom, which makes semiconductors used in cell phones and Wi-Fi devices, filed suit against Qualcomm, accusing the company of infringing on several of its patents that had to do with voice over Internet protocol technology. Broadcom also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, claiming Qualcomm had engaged in unfair trade practices through the importation of devices and other products that infringed on Broadcom patents.

In Qualcomm's complaint, the company alleges that Broadcom has violated six patents it holds with respect to several cellular standards, including GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution). Qualcomm also says Broadcom is infringing on one of its patents related to certain interoperability standards for Wi-Fi.

Qualcomm is seeking an injunction against Broadcom to stop it from manufacturing and selling chips that allegedly infringe on the patents. The company is also seeking monetary damages, according to the company.

The patents Qualcomm claims have been infringed were developed to help wireless carriers migrate from their second-generation GSM networks to new third-generation, or 3G, wireless networks. As carriers prepare for this technology migration, they have been adding data and other capabilities to their networks via GPRS and EDGE technologies, which allow for higher data transmission rates, increased spectral efficiency that results in greater capacity, resistance to interference, access to packet switched networks and multimedia distribution.

GSM is based on a technology called TDMA, or Time Division Multiple Access, but Qualcomm argues that the emerging GSM standards, GPRS and EDGE, use pieces of the company's patented technologies, originally developed to enable CDMA, or Code Division Multiple Access, networks. As a result, Qualcomm believes that the integrated circuits Broadcom has developed for GSM-standard compliant devices unavoidably infringe on Qualcomm's patents.

"Those who believe that Qualcomm's intellectual property portfolio is limited to CDMA have overlooked the breadth of our business activity and the extent of our research and development from which our intellectual property is generated," Louis M. Lupin, senior vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm, said in a statement. "Our intellectual-property rights are broad, and we will not hesitate to assert their full breadth when appropriate."

Broadcom representatives believe that Qualcomm is not defending its intellectual property so much as it is trying to get back at Broadcom for taking legal action against the company earlier this year.

"Qualcomm's filing today is in response to the lawsuits that we filed against Qualcomm on May 18 alleging infringement of 10 Broadcom patents," Bill Blanning, a spokesman for Broadcom, said in an e-mail. "It is very common for defendants in patent cases to respond with countersuits."

Qualcomm would not comment on Broadcom's assertions, but a company representative reiterated the company's belief that it is simply defending its intellectual-property rights.

"We would have preferred not to see things get to this point," the representative said. "But a number of Broadcom's major product lines infringe on Qualcomm's patents."