Judge Sanctions 6 Qualcomm Lawyers

By DON CLARK

A federal magistrate issued sanctions against six Qualcomm Inc. attorneys for mishandling evidence in a high-stakes patent case against Broadcom Corp.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major referred the conduct of the six lawyers to the California State Bar Association for an investigation of possible ethical violations. She decided not to sanction 13 other Qualcomm attorneys involved in the case.

Judge Major also issued an $8.5 million judgment against Qualcomm, though that ruling actually carries no cost to the company. Another federal judge had already ordered Qualcomm to pay Broadcom that amount to cover attorney’s fees, and the judge ruled that no additional monetary penalty was necessary because the original penalty was so large.

Five in-house Qualcomm attorneys were ordered to take part in a “comprehensive” review of the company’s procedures and obligations associated with producing evidence.

The case and its aftermath were a hot topic in the legal community after the discovery that Qualcomm had failed to produce thousands of pages of documents that had been requested by Broadcom.

Qualcomm, a San Diego chip maker, had originally sued Broadcom in October 2005 for allegedly infringing two patents on video-compression technology. One of Broadcom’s defenses to the allegations was that Qualcomm violated an obligation to disclose its patents to an industry committee setting standards on the technology. Qualcomm insisted that it hadn’t participated in the group.

During the final days of trial, a senior Qualcomm engineer disclosed that she had emails related to the group that hadn’t been turned over to Broadcom. Following the trial, which Qualcomm lost, thousands more documents were discovered; Qualcomm’s general counsel apologized for what happened and later resigned.

Judge Major ordered 19 Qualcomm lawyers to appear at a hearing in October to defend their actions. That task was complicated by the fact that communication between the lawyers and Qualcomm was protected by confidentiality rules, and so was not released. The lawyers issued declarations explaining their actions and insisting that they had no intention of deliberately withholding evidence.

But the judge concluded that their declarations and other evidence lead to “the inevitable conclusion that Qualcomm intentionally withheld tens of thousands of decisive documents from its opponent in an effort to win this case and gain a strategic business advantage over Broadcom,” according to 48-page order released late yesterday.

“Qualcomm could not have achieved this goal without some type of assistance or deliberate ignorance from its retained attorneys,” she added.

Broadcom declined to comment. A Qualcomm spokeswoman said the company regrets the errors that occurred in the case, but said its actions after the errors were found “defy any suggestion that Qualcomm engaged in intentional misconduct. We are considering our options, including further appeal.”

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  1. […] be losing their … adotas – Last Updated – Tuesday January 29  Request a Trackback Judge Sanctions 6 Qualcomm Lawyers By DON CLARK A federal magistrate issued sanctions against six Qualcomm Inc. attorneys for […]

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