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Trade agency to investigate chipmaker Microtune

The U.S. International Trade Commission is looking into allegations that the chipmaker infringed on patents owned by rival Broadcom.

The U.S. International Trade Commission plans to investigate allegations that chipmaker Microtune infringed on patents owned by competitor Broadcom, marking the latest in legal wrangling between the two companies.

The ITC will investigate some of Microtune's power amplifier chips, broadband tuner chips and transceiver chips, which are used in such products as single-chip cable modems to radio receivers, according to an ITC notice issued Tuesday.

Broadcom, which brought the issue to the commission in March, has asked the ITC to issue a permanent cease and desist order. The ITC said it will base its decision on the merits of the case.

"We feel really good that the ITC will have those patent (allegations) declared invalid," Microtune CEO Doug Bartek said.

The two companies have been exchanging lawsuits since 2001.

That's when Microtune filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging Broadcom had infringed on its integrated silicon tuner on a single microcircuit patents. In March, a jury ruled in favor of Microtune.

In January, Broadcom filed a lawsuit against Microtune, alleging its competitor's power amplifiers, tuners and Bluetooth products had violated its patents. That case, which raises similar issues as the ITC investigation, is expected to go to trial in early 2004.

A month after Broadcom filed its patent infringement lawsuit, Microtune filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Williamson County in Texas, alleging Broadcom engaged in anticompetitive behavior. No trial date has been set for the antitrust lawsuit, Bartek said.