US judge recommends SiRF ban

August 29, 2008 // 10:44 a.m.

Tags: #ban #gps #patent #sat-nav

Companies: #broadcom #sirf

Decent GPS devices might be harder to come by in the US soon, as a court has recommended a ban on the import of the popular SiRF Star III chip.

According to Engadget, a US International Trade Commission judge has upheld a complaint by Broadcom alleging that SiRF's well-regarded Star III global positioning chip – as used in pretty much every consumer-level sat-nav system on the market – infringes several patents, and will accordingly recommend that a full ban on the import of SiRF's GPS products is carried out.

While the news is clearly bad for SiRF, it's not exactly great for the rest of the industry – SiRFs chips are nearly ubiquitous, because they do a very good job of receiving and calculating GPS data in harsh conditions for not a lot of money. When I moved away from a no-name GPS puck to a SiRF Star III unit, I was amazed to find I could actually get a position lock indoors – something none of the competing products were able to do at the time, at least in my price range.

The hammer has yet to fall, however, with a final decision by the International Trade Commission to come in December of this year. Regardless, SiRF is already feeling the pressure with a 24 percent drop in share price since the news broke, and rumours that at least one customer is looking to switch to a competitor's product ahead of any ban being enforced.

For its part, SiRF is still denying any wrongdoing, and has asked for the US Patent and Trademarks Office to re-examine the six patents which Broadcom allege the company has violated.

Is Broadcom trying to bully the little guy, or did SiRF really take a bit of a short cut when making their popular Star III units? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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