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August 29, 2008 1:45 PM

Qualcomm Hit with Contempt for Violating Injunction

Posted by Alison Frankel

Back in July, when Qualcomm and Nokia reached a global settlement of their around-the-world patent disputes, everyone wondered whether the deal portended an end to Qualcomm's Hatfield v. McCoy death match with Broadcom as well.

On Friday we got an answer: Nope. Santa Ana federal district court judge James Selna ruled that Qualcomm was in contempt of his December injunction against using Broadcom patents covering wireless technology. Selna's ruling came in the case in which Broadcom won a $20 million jury award against Qualcomm last May.

WilmerHale's Bill Lee, who's been Broadcom's litigation savior over the last few years, tells The Am Law Litigation Daily that the two parties are supposed to submit remedy recommendations to Judge Selna by September 3. Selna is expected to release the public aspects of those recommendations, which may include a dollar figure for damages, next week.

It's never easy to put individual developments in this supersized litigation in context, but Lee told us that Selna's contempt ruling is an important one. "Qualcomm is not living up to the terms and spirit of the injunction," he says. "We had to prove it by clear and convincing evidence."

Lee says there's a chance the contempt ruling will serve to bring Broadcom and Qualcomm closer to reaching a global settlement, but he declines to tell us whether the two sides have made much progress to that end. On the contempt motion, Lee was  assisted by WilmerHale lawyers Richard O'Neill, Joseph Mueller, and Lauren Fletcher.

Qualcomm was defended by Evan Chesler and Richard Stark of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, who were unavailable for comment.

Lee also alerted us to a highly entertaining recording of oral arguments at the Federal Circuit in the appeal of another Qualcomm v. Broadcom case: the one that resulted in sanctions against Qualcomm lawyers from Heller Ehrman and Day Casebeer last January. Lee argued for Broadcom; Sidley Austin partner Carter Phillips represented Qualcomm. Phillips faced what one of the Federal Circuit judges called "a steep hill" from the moment he opened his mouth. At one point, another judge shot down his argument that Broadcom hadn't sought equitable estoppel, noting, "Isn't that because of the fraud that your client perpetrated on the process by withholding all the information and denying the facts?"

Sounds to us like Broadcom doesn't have to worry much about the Federal Circuit overturning this one.

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