A US judge has doubled the damages that mobile phone chip company Qualcomm must pay to rival Broadcom in a patent dispute to over $39 million.
The news is the latest in a string of setbacks for Qualcomm. Its top lawyer, general counsel Lou Lupin, has resigned, and just days ago the administration of US president George Bush refused to overturn an import ban on phones carrying Qualcomm chips.
In late May a jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California said that Qualcomm had infringed three Broadcom patents and should pay the firm $19.6m in damages. Judge James Selna has now said that that award should be doubled.
The jury had found that Qualcomm's infringement of patents was wilful, meaning that the court can treble the damages awarded. "After a finding of wilfulness, the primary concern in determining whether and to what extent to increase damages is the egregiousness of the infringer's conduct based on the totality of the circumstance," said Selna in his ruling.
Selna said the court had to consider nine factors when assessing Qualcomm's behaviour, and that four of those favoured Qualcomm. He said that there was no evidence that the company deliberately copied Broadcom patents or products.
Selna said, though, that the jury had found that Qualcomm knew about the Broadcom patents it had infringed, and that it engaged in its infringing behaviour knowing that it was infringing the patent and without believing that the patent was invalid.
He also said that the fact that Qualcomm continued its infringing behaviour throughout the long two year case meant that damages should be increased.
"The Court finds that, on balance, the totality of the circumstances merits an increase in the damages award," said Selna. "Doubling the damages rather than tripling is appropriate, because though Qualcomm's conduct was wilful, it was not so egregious as to warrant trebling of the damages."
Broadcom was also awarded its legal costs by the Court, a sum it has yet to calculate. "The Court has found that attorneys' fees are appropriate for the same reasons as the damages enhancement," said Selna. "Broadcom has demonstrated that this case is exceptional by clear and convincing evidence."