3Com has 56K patent in its pocket

Brett Townshend connection comes good

The battle over who owns 56Kbps modem technology took a further turn yesterday when Stanford University associate professor Brent Townshend was granted a patent for his pulse code modulation (PCM) technology. Townshend and his corporate sponsor, 3Com, which last year bought the exclusive rights to Townshend's patents, both claim PCM is essential to the way all 56kbps modems work, specifically those from rival modem chipset developers Lucent and Rockwell. Last year, after his deal with 3Com, Townshend began proceedings against Rockwell alleging the company had used proprietary technology belonging to him. The suit threatened to derail negotiations seeking a global 56kbps standard uniting 3Com's x2 technology with Rockwell and Lucent's k56flex system, which is incompatible with x2. The case has yet to be settled. Agreement on the new standard, dubbed V.90, was only reached by allowing companies to retain control of patented elements of the specification for which they can charge other modem vendors "reasonable" licence fees. Townshend's PCM patent could further delay the spread of V.90 by forcing Rockwell and Lucent to negotiate licensing rights. They are very unlikely to do so willingly. Lucent has already said it las long owned patents on PCM technology -- Rockwell claims there are nine other companies, in addition to Lucent, that have patents related to V.90. Both it and Lucent have said they will only be able to respond to Townshend's patent once they have had a chance to review it in detail.®

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