Chipmaker Broadcom has won a ruling from the International Trade Commission banning the import into the US of certain Qualcomm 3G chips and mobile phones using those chips. The ban applies only to new phone models that have not yet been sold in the United States, models imported prior to the order on Tuesday are not affected by the ban.

The ban could have a negative impact on cell phone manufacturers and mobile operators, not to mention customers will get far fewer new handset models to choose from if this matter doesn't get settled quickly. The ban does not affect the much anticipated iPhone as it uses AT&T's slower 2.5G network technology.

"It's a huge issue for both handset makers and carriers," said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Carriers are counting on selling these new 3G handsets to drive greater data usage. Not being able to sell new phones will be hugely problematic to their growth, especially at a time when everyone is trying to come out with something new to compete against the iPhone."
One thing is for sure, this dispute does nothing to serve the customers' best interests. Qualcomm Inc. is reportedly planning to ask a federal appeals court to stay the International Trade Commission's import ban. They're also looking for a veto from U.S. president Bush to the International Trade Commission decision, maintaining that Broadcom's patent was invalid and not infringed.