U.S. agency may bar Qualcomm chip phones

According to our industry sources, the ongoing patent war between Qualcomm and Broadcom is set to take a dramatic turn as a judge at the International Trade Commission may decide to ban imports on phones that use Qualcomm technology. Interestingly, the ITC judge will decide by October 10th whether it will ban the importation of the mobile phones. The ITC will then review the decision during a 60 day period. Broadcom has long held that the Qualcomm technology for 3G, high-speed mobile Internet access, violates its patent holdings. The market for 3G wireless handsets was worth well over $1 billion last year, and, at the moment, it's primarily controlled by Qualcomm.

Broadcom has more to lose in this battle, so its strongarm tactics are somewhat understandable. Industry analysts believe the company is trying to increase pressure on Qualcomm to force a settlement in the patent suit. The move reminds me of the RIM/NTP lawsuit that finally ended in settlement a few months back. NTP had drummed up considerable noise about a possible BlackBerry suspension of services, since it claimed RIM had violated its patent holdings for mobile email. As the enterprise began to slowly pull away from RIM's services, the company decided it was best to settle before things got out of hand.

Stay tuned to FierceWireless to see if Qualcomm sticks to its guns.