Qualcomm General Counsel Calls It Quits

A few days after a federal judge doubled to US$39.3 million the damages Qualcomm would have to pay for infringing the patents of rival Broadcom, Lou Lupin gave up his posts as general counsel and executive vice president for the beleaguered firm. Carol Lam, senior vice president and legal counsel, will serve as acting general counsel while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

Lupin’s decision was for personal reasons and “was his alone,” Qualcomm spokesperson Bella Alabanza told the E-Commerce Times.

Lupin has not left Qualcomm, she noted. “He is stepping down as general counsel and taking a personal leave. While we are sorry to see him step down, we respect his decision. Lou has been an outstanding leader and contributor to the company’s success over the past 12 years.”

Chain of Setbacks

Lupin’s successor will have to deal with the aftermath of the company’s failed patent dispute with Broadcom, including a series of unfavorable regulatory decisions related to the case.

In May, a federal jury found that Qualcomm’s chips for cell phones violated three patents owned by Broadcom. It not only awarded Broadcom $19.6 million in damages, but also found that Qualcomm’s infringement was willful — opening the door to a threefold increase in the penalty.

Indeed, earlier this month the court found that Qualcomm engaged in aggravated litigation misconduct and intentional abuse of industry standards with respect to two of its patents for digital video technology, which paved the way for the imposition of additional damages.

On Tuesday, Qualcomm was in court again, asking U.S. District Judge James Selna not to grant Broadcom’s request for an injunction on manufacturing its products.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is still struggling to persuade the International Trade Commission to overturn its ban on future imports of new phone models containing chips designed by Qualcomm. The ITC also found that some of Qualcomm’s chips and chipsets infringed on Broadcom’s patented technology.

High Stakes

Lupin’s resignation underscores the high stakes of patent litigation under the current U.S. patent system — particularly as it affects competitors in the technology space, Lee Eulgen, a partner in the IP litigation practice at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, told the E-Commerce Times.

“If Qualcomm’s general counsel left as a result of the Broadcom verdict,” Eulgen speculated, “it shows that high stakes IP litigation is having a pressurizing effect on high-ranking corporate officials — not unlike the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley and other such landmark regulation.”

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