Qualcomm Inc's outside lawyers, who may face disciplinary action for discovery violations, can defend themselves in court even if it means revealing information Qualcomm previously resisted disclosing, according to a ruling by a U.S. judge.
In January, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major referred six of Qualcomm's outside attorneys to the State Bar of California for possible disciplinary action after Qualcomm did not turn over about 46,000 documents in a patent infringement case it lost against rival Broadcom Corp last year.
The attorneys appealed the sanctions to U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster, who presided over the patent infringement lawsuit in San Diego federal court.
Brewster on Wednesday vacated Major's sanctions against the six outside lawyers and ruled that Qualcomm's attorney-client privilege should not stop them from defending themselves in an appeal.
Brewster said the six lawyers identified as Batchelder, Bier, Leung, Mammen, Patch and Young, could exercise a "self-defense exception" to the attorney-client privilege previously asserted by Qualcomm in a sanctions hearing.
Brewster sent the case back to Major for a rehearing on the lawyer sanctions, but shielded Qualcomm and its employees from exposure to further punishment in the discovery violations.
On Jan. 7, Major had ordered Qualcomm to pay $8.6 million to Broadcom after citing a "monumental and intentional discovery violation" in the case involving patents for high-definition video compression technology.
Qualcomm representatives were not immediately available to comment on the ruling on Thursday afternoon.
San Diego-based Qualcomm has been embroiled in multiple legal disputes with Broadcom including a case which involved the U.S. government banning Qualcomm from importing chips that infringed on Broadcom patents.