Federal jury finds H.264 video compression standard does not infringe patentJanuary 30, 2007

A federal jury in San Diego recently found that Broadcom, a company that produces chips used in everything from mobile phones to next-generation DVD players, does not infringe two patents held by Qualcomm on video compression technology. Why is this finding important? Qualcomm asserted its patents covered the H.264 video compression standard, which is the standard used by everything from DirecTV and Dish Network receivers to video iPods to HD-DVD and Blu-ray disc players.

Had Qualcomm prevailed, it would theoretically have been able to collect royalty payments on every device that uses the H.264 standard, a potentially huge amount of products. This is noteworthy because a patent pool of 160 essential patents has already been formed under a single licensing entity, MPEG LA, so if a license under Qualcomm's patent was also found to be necessary to practice the H.264 standard, it would throw off all the prior licensing agreements companies had entered into to produce the chips.

Not only did the jury find Qualcomm's patent not infringed, they also found it unenforceable due to inequitable conduct during prosecution, further illustrating how crucial it is to be forthright during prosecution of a patent. No word yet on whether Qualcomm will appeal the ruling.

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