Broadcom

Nokia has announced today a big link up with more than twenty tech firms to create an In-Location Alliance.  The Alliance was created to advance efforts to promotion of a new standard-based short-range wireless technology that will make it possible to locate objects or positions indoors with extremely high accuracy using mobile devices.

Remember our article about Nokia becoming the Where platform? Well, this just shows how serious Nokia is about this technology. Navigation outside has become something we take for granted, the next big step is high accuracy location inside. There are a number of hurdles to overcome and Nokia is doing the right thing here and establishing an alliance to get things moving. The potential applications for this type of location-based services are likely even more far reaching than its outside variant.

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Once upon a time there were two processor manufactuers: Qualcomm and Broadcom. Qualcomm made some chips that looked a little too much like Broadcom's and the two stopped being BFFs, making everyone sad. In fact, Broadcom was so upset, it took Qualcomm to court and accused it of patent infringement.

This went on in and out of weeks and almost over three years. At one point, a mean ol' federal judge said Qualcomm couldn't sell its processors anymore, but the cagey lawyers found a way around that, and another judge said a ban just wasn't fair, and some of your favorite smartphones continue to be powered by Qualcomm.

Fast forward to today, and everyone's kissed and made up. OK, being paid $891 million would make me kiss and make up with just about anyone, too. And that's just what's been done, with the two manufacturers finally reaching an agreement in the case and agreeing to put down their swords, says Engadget. Full deets after the jump, but we're going to spend the rest of the afternoon coming to terms with the fact that it's over. It's really over.

For now.

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Samsung to Develop Own LTE and WiMAX Chips

Samsung apparently isn't fond of dealing with Qualcomm's patent hassles anymore, or perhaps they've been spooked by how difficult it is to write video drivers for Qualcomm's chipsets, or perhaps they just don't like Qualcomm's LTE roadmap, or maybe it's just the stated reason from EETimes [via mobile burn]: they're unhappy with how much the royalties cost.

Whatever the reason, it looks like Samsung is going it alone for the chips that power their phone, opting to develop them in-house instead of using Qualcomm or Broadcom chips. It also appears that LG may follow suit.

While we're generally happy to see more competition, we do have a bit of a concern about compatibility and standards here. Sure, Samsung will likely drive down costs and speed up development of their handsets with this move. We just hope that Samsung, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Infineon, and the other players in this 4G chips space can agree on some common standards that will make life easier for other shops that can't make their own chips and also easier for carriers to approve handsets more quickly. The last thing we want is redux of the all-out patent war we have been witnessing with the 3G chipsets.

What say you? Smart move by Samsung?

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Federal Court Vacates Qualcomm Ban

We avoided the last turning of the Qualcomm vs. Broadcom screw because, well, it's just becoming so darn tiring. If you missed that last month, what happened is a US Appeals court affirmed that Qualcomm infringed on two Broadcomm patents and therefore needed to pay up [via Engadget]. These were related to EVDO, QChat, and video processing. Now leave that stewing in the back of your mind.

In the front of your mind, recall that we had ourselves a little panic last year as courts told Qualcomm they weren't allowed to import certain chips into the US. This was pretty bad, but Verizon decided to pony up licensing fees so they could continue to use the chips, Sprint tried to insert themselves into the conversation, and President Bush declined to stop the International Trade Commission's (ITC) ban.

All clear? Good -- Next up, from Patently-O: the ITC's decision has been vacated by a Federal Circuit court because the original ITC decision didn't find “inducement of infringement” and also found that the ITC didn't really have the authority to exclude imports in the exact method that they used. In short, the Qualcomm chip ban has been lifted (for now)

The upshot is that Broadcom still can collect the damages you read about in the first paragraph, the ban you read about in the second paragraph has been lifted, but the court finding in the third paragraph can probably be appealed and the ban reinstated at some future date. ...and you were starting to suspect that patent lawsuits were adding uncertainty to the marketplace -- for shame!

Thanks to Dave for the tip!

(p.s. The above has nothing to do with the US not getting the Touch HD. Seriously, everybody, you have to let that one go and dream of the 'other cool stuff.')

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HTC Advantage 7510: Lawyered Out of the US

Remember what Malatesta told you during last week's podcast? He told you that Qualcomm has been having a rough time here in the US lately. Add another data point to that trend as it turns out that their excellent chipset that's running the updated HTC Advantage 7510 isn't allowed for sale in the US. We're relatively sure this is part of their ongoing struggles with Broadcom, but don't hold us to that as we're neither lawyers nor do we aspire to be.

It's a real pity, too, because although we do think that that the Advantage has one of the weirdest niches in in the Windows Mobile world -- somewhere between a subnotebook and a proper smartphone -- the thought just occurred to us that this thing would be stupendous as a dashboard computer for our automobiles. Goodbye silly car stereo, hello über-connected mp3-gps-internet radio-WiFi WiFi bridge wundermachine. Ford Sync's got nuthin on this.

jkOnTheRun [via BGR]

Update: The real tragedy here? Matt Miller tells us the Advantage 7510 comes pre-loaded with Opera Mobile 9.5 as the default browser. I'm thinking we breaking out the pitchforks and torches and head over to the patent office. Who's with me?!

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LG to make Windows Mobile Smartphones?

We've been awfully hard on Broadcom here at WMExperts, mainly because we (ok, me, for various reasons) have an inherent bias against patents getting in the way of companies releasing new shiny gadgets. It may be time to leaven that harshness, however, as it appears that Broadcom is going to be a new dealer provider of 3G chips for future Windows Mobile smartphones:

A recent sign of Broadcom's newfound footing in basebands came May 31, when Broadcom said it and Microsoft (MSFT), the world's largest software company, had jointly created a design center in Taiwan where the companies will develop basebands that run Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.

So instead of preventing Sprint and Verizon from getting 3G phones, Broadcom's patent will enable the CDMA-duo to get them - with Broadcom's chips. So the system is working. Now the interesting part, who exactly is interested in using these Broadcom chips to make Windows Mobile phones? Apparently it's LG(!):

"Several [manufacturers] have been pushing Broadcom and Microsoft to build this development center," says John Starkweather, general manager of mobile communications at Microsoft. He adds that, later this year, a major manufacturer will release a Windows Mobile device based on a Broadcom baseband chip. Neither company would identify the handset maker or say how much they're spending on the design center. But Starkweather says Korea's LG Electronics asked Broadcom and Microsoft to work together and that Microsoft is spending as much on the center with Broadcom as it has on comparable efforts with TI and Qualcomm.

Read: Broadcom Reaps Patent Suit Benefits

If LG can bring hotness like their Prada phone with Windows Mobile on board, I can break out my credit card -- despite my claims to be more practical about my smartphone purchasing.

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Qualcomm on the Patent Ropes

On a slow news day, you can always count on lawyers to give you something to talk about. Today's news: Qualcomm just got knocked to the mat in their patent fight with Broadcom. How's that? Well on top of the President refusing to veto the ban on their 3G chips, a judge has now just doubled the fines they'll have to pay for their infringements up to this point, to the tune of nearly $40 million. Quallcomm's response: can their lead attorney:

In a move following a string of legal defeats to Broadcom Corp., a rival and a newcomer to the cell phone business, Qualcomm Inc. announced yesterday that its lead counsel, Lou Loupin, will be resigning.

Read: Qualcomm's Top Attorney Resigns

Oops. Now, maybe Qualcomm was hoping that the masses would rise up in their defense. They shouldn't, though, because moves like this definitely don't garner you good will:

Qualcomm kept its patents on H.264 a secret until the video standard had been adopted by the industry, and then sued users for breaching those patents, a San Diego federal court has ruled.

Qualcomm was an active member of the Joint Video Team (JVT) which defined the H.264 video standard, now used extensively in mobile phone video applications. But while doing so it failed to mention owning at least two patents which anyone implementing the standard would need to license.

Once Broadcom had started development of chips using the standard Qualcomm, "without any prior letter, email, telephone call, or even a smoke signal, let alone attempt to license Broadcom, Qualcomm filed the instant lawsuit against Broadcom for infringement of the '104 and '767 patents", the court said.

Read: Qualcomm: And THIS is why we need open standards ...

Smells a little like Qualcomm trying to play a tit-for-tat legal game and botching it, don't it?

So what will Qualcomm do now? Well, they apologized for the H.264 debacle (nice) and according to RCR Wireless (Reg Required, sorry), they're looking for a workaround:

Qualcomm re-emphasized its commitment to providing its customers with new software, i.e., a "workaround," that could pass muster with officials enforcing the ITC ban.

Good luck with that. In other news, weren't we supposed to see Verizon's UTStarcom XV6800 drop today? My laws, I hope its non-appearance is just a coincidence/falsified rumor. Actually, I know it is, since Verizon smartly got itself out of this Qualcomm quagmire on its own. Broadcom execs want you to know they've put the same offer on the table for everybody else. My advice, take it, you can trust current Broadcom execs, it's just the old ones you can't trust.

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Ah, Lawyers. At once both the cause of and the solution to all of life's problems (or maybe that was beer). Verizon apparently got fed up waiting for the President of the United States to help them and decided to help themselves. The problem was that Qualcomm 3G chips infringed on a Broadcom patent, so the International Trade Commission put the kybosh on any imports of new devices with the chips. Not good.

Instead, Verizon is just going to give Broadcom their blood money license fee - to the tune of 6 bucks for every handset, with some caps. Qualcomm is probably crying on the lawyers and in their beer, because it means that in order for any carrier to buy their chips, one of two things needs to happen now:

  • They need to pursue the lawsuit against Broadcom's patent on their own and win
  • Any carrier that wants to use their chips has to pay an extra fee to Broadcom.

Or, of course, those carriers could just go to some other chipmaker. Gee, what other chipmaker besides Qualcomm have I mentioned in this story?

Under a licensing agreement, Verizon will pay Broadcom $6 for every handset, PDA, or data card that uses EvDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) mobile broadband technology. The carrier will make the payments up to a ceiling of $40 million per calendar quarter and a lifetime maximum of $200 million. As part of the deal, Verizon also will drop an effort to overturn the ruling. Other terms are confidential, according to a statement released by the two companies.

Read: Verizon-Broadcom deal via jkOnTheRun

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Qualcomm Chip Ban Continues

We just reported that Verizon got fed up with the Qualcomm chip ban and just settled with patent-owner Broadcom directly.

(I guess Verizon figured that they could trust Broadcom since Broadcom had the sense to get rid of co-founder Henry T. Nicholas a few years ago - who has been implicated not only in some stock option tomfoolery but also stands accused of building a secret lair for sex and drugs(!) under his estate. Yes, that's only tangentially related to the story here, but some things are just to juicy not to link. Thanks to Joe for the scandalous tip!)

Anyhow, seems like Verizon made the right decision, as things aren't going so well for Qualcomm:

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed Qualcomm's request for a stay of the ban, saying that it can't consider a stay until a presidential review period is over. U.S. President George Bush has 60 days following the U.S. International Trade Commission's decision from June 7 to overturn the ban.

Read: PC World - Qualcomm Chip Ban Upheld via engadget mobile

So it's looking like it really is going to take presidential intervention to keep Qualcomm's chips flowing into the US. Somebody throw Qualcomm a bone - they're having a rough time of it lately.

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CTIA: Don't Ban 3G Chips

Just over a month ago we reported that the International Trade Commission wants to ban 3G chips from being imported into the US because they violated Broadcom patents (Story here). I know a guy who works for Broadcom, and he seems nice enough, but I'm starting to feel like maybe I should punch him in the neck (plus, they're in cahoots with that other popular phone).

In any case, CTIA (they of the superfun wireless conventions) is asking the President to veto the ban because, if it's allowed to stand, they think it will cause $21.1 billion (with a "B") in economic damage. This PDF link provides all the details about how the sky will fall if this isn't stopped. The Spice 3G Must Flow. You go get 'em, CTIA!

CTIA-The Wireless Association® is deeply concerned that the ITC order banning new models of wireless broadband handsets will cause unprecedented economic harm to tens of millions of American wireless consumers, and because of that we urge President Bush to veto the order

Read: MobileCrunch » CTIA Calls for Veto of ITC Chip Ban

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