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Judge Won’t Sanction Qualcomm Attorneys

(CN) - A federal judge in San Diego decided not to sanction six Qualcomm attorneys for the company's failure to produce tens of thousands of documents in a patent dispute with Broadcom. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major said the failure boiled down to "an incredible breakdown in communication."

Major said the evidence presented by the attorneys "clarified that, although a number of poor decisions were made, the involved attorneys did not act in bad faith."

She blamed the discovery violations on a "lack of meaningful communication" between Qualcomm engineers and in-house legal staff, between Qualcomm employees and outside legal counsel, and among outside counsel.

"These failures were exacerbated by an incredible lack of candor on the part of the principal Qualcomm employees," she added.

Major declined to impose sanctions on attorneys James Batchelder, Christian Mammen, Kevin Leung, Lee Patch, Adam Bier and Stanley Young.

Qualcomm did not appeal its $8.5 million sanction for withholding documents that directly contradicted one of its key arguments. Broadcom had accused Qualcomm of infringing two patents for chipsets used in mobile radio devices.

The individual attorneys had been sanctioned along with Qualcomm in 2008, but they appealed to the trial judge, who agreed that they had a due-process right to defend themselves.

Over the next 15 months, the attorneys undertook a massive discovery effort to fight the sanctions. Qualcomm searched for and had its outside counsel review more than 1.6 million documents, 22,500 of which it handed over to the attorneys.

After reviewing the new evidence, Major wrote, "There is still no doubt in this court's mind that this massive discovery failure resulted from significant mistakes, oversights, and miscommunication on the part of both outside counsel and Qualcomm employees."

But she said the new evidence "also revealed that the responding attorneys made significant efforts to comply with their discovery obligations."

"After considering all the new facts, the court declines to sanction any of the responding attorneys," Major concluded.

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