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Feds ban Qualcomm chips

US chip shop Qualcomm was struck another blow on Thursday as a US federal agency banned the import of new 3G phone models using chips made by the firm.

The ban, set by the International Trade Commission (ITC), came into effect Friday but will only become final after 60 days. During that time, Qualcomm will seek a veto from President Bush.

The ITC decision comes after Qualcomm was found guilty of infringing three Broadcom patents related to cellular baseband chips and software and is likely to pile on yet more pressure for Qualcomm to form a settlement.

Qualcomm said it is “disappointed” with the decision and said that, “Although all of the commissioners agreed that a disruption in the supply of EV-DO and WCDMA handsets would negatively impact the public interest and public safety, the remedy fashioned by the majority does not protect the public interest or public safety.”

The chip firm said it will ask the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to stay enforcement of the ITC’s order and ask the President to veto the ITC’s decision.

Behind the scenes, Qualcomm’s customers, some of the world’s biggest handset manufacturers, are also likely to be pressuring the company to settle as the ban could seriously hamstring both WCDMA and EV-DO 3G technologies in the US and maybe even abroad.

The danger is compounded by the fact that the Big Q is also fighting fires elsewhere as another ongoing patent dispute with Nokia, potentially leaves the door open for rival technologies such as WiMAX to sneak in, as the attentions of the major cellular players are diverted by squabbling.

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