back to article Court finds Qualcomm guilty of standards abuse

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 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weasel words

    Can somebody explain to me the difference between "inaccurate testimony of some of its witnesses" and "perjury"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very revealing

    "but disputes the idea that companies should be made to reveal patents when discussing or setting industry standards."

    Why? What part of "fair play" and "elementary common sense" do they fail to understand?

    The whole point about standards is that they are there to be followed and therefore industry should be free to follow those standards without being unexpectedly "fined" by an interested and deceitful third party for doing so.

    Companies that deliberately mislead in this manner should be very very severely punished ... and putting their concealed patents into the public domain would be by far the simplest way to achieve this as a matter of course.

    The court has done right, and the appeal court MUST reinforce the decision.

  3. Michael Sheils

    RE: Weasel words

    "inacurate testimony of some of its witnesses" = What Qualcomm says

    "perjury" = what the rest of the world says.

    I hope that helps :)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure...

    One is a lie. The other is simply misstating the truth.

    You have to LOVE the US legal system. Too bad the JUSTICE system died a horrible death a long, long time ago.

  5. Alistair

    Patent schmatent

    Come on you yanks. In filing a Patent, you have to publicly declare the invention in order to claim it. How can any patent be secret?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ethics? We probably still have them in stock somewhere...

    > Can somebody explain to me the difference between "inaccurate testimony of

    > some of its witnesses" and "perjury"?

    No, and neither can the Attorney General of the United States.

    That said, Qualcomm seems to be dumber by a mile than Rambus, who, if I remember well, did more or less get away with the same con.

  7. davcefai

    A Fine Line

    Perjury is "making false statements under oath". So I suppose that it is possible to be inaccurate and imprecise without actually triggering the "falseness level" required. But you need to have a very "good" lawyer to guide you.

  8. Rich Silver badge

    Excellent!

    That only leaves about 9 million other H264 patents to negotiate then :-)

  9. Karl Lattimer

    RE: Weasel words

    Perjury gets you some jail time?

  10. Nick Palmer

    The difference...

    ...is intent; testimony may be inaccurate by reason of genuine mistake, or it may be deliberately misleading. It's pretty apparent, however, which the court thinks applies in this instance...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scum

    Qualcomm are that almost uniquely USA phenomenon - an IP (intellectual property) company who don't actually develop ANYTHING. They act in bad faith and then expect "justice". Hopefully 3 years from now nobody will remember them. Well done Broadcomm and do keep up the ITC ban on the mobiles :-D

  12. James

    Punitive Damages

    While I'm no fan of Broadcom (refusal to document its chips) I hope Qualcomm gets hit very hard with punitive damages. This sort of abuse of the patent and standards systems must not be tolerated or go unpunished.

  13. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Gilding the Brevity Lily

    Yes..... 32 less letters.

    Crikey, am I really talking about Brevity? I must be learning... :-)

  14. William Donelson

    Shareholders: Remove those directors responsible...

    ...then prosecute them and send them to prison.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Win for sensible patent policy

    Finally!!! This sets a precedent in that one must actively protect their patent much in the same way one must actively protect a trademark. You must actively pursue infringement the moment you learn of it... Not wait until several companies make use of your idea and then spring the trap. Protect it or lose it!

    Now we just need to do something about retro-active patents. How is it a certain large software company can patent a very popular "standard" filesystem format some 20 years after it was created??

  16. Morely Dotes

    This is how it's done:

    "How is it a certain large software company can patent a very popular "standard" filesystem format some 20 years after it was created??"

    Well, there are two simple methods:

    1) Submit the patent to an overloaded USPTO which routinely grants *all* patents submitted by Blue Chip companies, or

    2) Bribe the patent examiner to grant a patent for something which has well-known and very old prior art.

    I suspect MS simply chose route #1, as #2 would have cost them a few more pennies.

  17. Mike Silver badge

    Patenting FAT

    Not this again...

    The "FAT patent" is not about the original FAT (first used in MS Disk BASIC, then adopted by QDOS which became {MS,PC}DOS. It is about the "long filename" hack.

    I won't argue that MSFT acted with due haste about springing it on camera makers et al, but it neither was it "20 years"

  18. Kurt Guntheroth

    stealth patents

    In the U.S., we have a first-to-invent system. You can file a patent way after the invention if you are careful to keep signed documents, and don't disclose your invention publically. Yeah, this doesn't make the patent valid in Europe, where it's first-to-file, but the U.S. market is huge, and many companies don't want to build two different devices, an infringing one for Europe and a workaround one for the U.S.

    Then you file a complex application, and begin ammending it on a regular basis. The patent can stay"pending" and undisclosed by law, for like 10 or 15 years, until the trap is sprung. Then you can extend the life of the patent by submitting follow-on patents for years after the patent is granted.

    Pharmaceutical, software and hardware companies, all have intellectual property that is obvious once disclosed. They are the pacesetters in patent law manipulation. Sigh.

  19. Aubry Thonon

    Qualcomm bullshit.

    "but disputes the idea that companies should be made to reveal patents when discussing or setting industry standards."

    Can anyone say "conflict of interest"?

    ...I thought you could...

  20. Chris

    Conflicting rulings

    While I welcome this ruling with open arms, because it's common sense and the way it should be, I do see a conflict. Qualcomm is punished for creating (or helping to create) a standard which utilizes their patents, without telling anyone about the patents, and then suing the companies using the standard. A downright dirty and unethical thing to do, and should guarantee that you lose rights to enforce your patent. But yet, Rambus did the exact same thing and got away with it, successfully suing companies for using the SDRAM/DDR standards they helped create. And that was after the FTC sued Rambus for anti-trust violations.

  21. Andrew J. Winks

    What about CDMA patents?

    Though what they did was sneaky, Qualcomm did not do anything illegal in promoting standards based on their IP. It is similar to Microsoft's current attempts to have their competitor to ODF adopted as a standard - a reasonable person can anticipate the next move.

    If the court ruling is accepted as a precedent then having IP adopted as an industry standard essentially releases it to the public domain.

    Since Qualcomm holds key patents essential to the CDMA mobile standard (which they "invented"), this ruling could fatally undermine their position in the ongoing battle between themselves and Nokia. One can therefore anticipate that it will be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

    There could be some really interesting amicus curiae briefs filed!

  22. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    RE: What about CDMA patents?

    That isn't quite what this ruling says. The key bit is that Qualcomm sat on the standards group developing a standard knowing that they had a patent on part of the standard - and said nothing. Only after the standard was set and companies were producing products using it did Qualcomm act.

    Many standards do rely on stuff covered by patents, and I believe it's normal for the standards body to require full disclosure so that all parties can decide if they want to incorporate the patented stuff or not. Where a standard does involved patented stuff, there is also usually a standardised licensing scheme - ie ONE licence from the group administering the standard, one set of royalty payment by the user, but then this is put in a pot and divided up between the patent holders.

    The latter scheme is (arguably) acceptable - people know before they start what the cost will be. Qualcomms actions are nothing short of an ambush, and it is refreshing to see them being caught out.

  23. Andrew J. Winks

    Nobody likes sneaks, but...

    Qualcomm come out of this looking increasingly evil, but, as they have gleefully pointed out, there was no finding that any infringement of the "written rules of the standard setting body" had taken place.

    H.264 has over 20 IP rights claimants, there is no unitary licence in place and royalty arrangements are 'complicated'. Furthermore, the actual ITU/IEC/ISO joint standards document contains a strong IP rights disclaimer that is effectively a warning. In light of this, those drafting the standard, or wishing to enter the market, ought to have performed their own extensive patent searches.

    This is by no means the first time that IP has been smuggled into a standard, nor will it be the last. But it seems without precedent to suppress patent rights because technical elements from patents may have been injected into a standard.

    It's a satisfying idea, but it is clearly a decision that will need to be made in a higher court.

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