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Cisco sued in Wi-Fi patent clash

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Canadian wireless technology licensing company Wi-LAN has begun legal action against Cisco, alleging the networking giant's Linksys and Aironet products are making use of its intellectual property without permission.

It wants the court to force Cisco to license the technology and to pay unspecified "punitive damages".

At issue are three Wi-LAN patents - one Canadian (2,064,975), the others registered in the US (5,282,222 and 5,555,268) - which cover the use of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), a technique incorporated into the 802.11g and 802.11a Wi-Fi standards.

Wi-LAN claims Cisco's 802.11a and 802.11g products make use of this technique without a licence to do so, and now it wants the networking company to cough up.

Wi-LAN lists Redline Communications - over which it recently prevailed in the courts - Philips' semiconductor subsidiary and Fujitsu as its licensees, implying there are plenty of other Wi-Fi equipment suppliers out there whose products may also be open to legal action.

By taking on Cisco, to "put the industry on notice", Wi-LAN is hoping to convince other vendors that it has a strong case, that it's willing to take on one of the biggest names in the business, and that they should get in touch to discuss licensing. Most will await the outcome of the Cisco fight.

But it's not just Wi-Fi that Wi-LAN has its eye on. It recently bought a raft of 17 patents, some granted, others pending, that it claims "are necessary for the implementation... of WiMAX".

"It is our intent to collect, either directly or through component manufacturers, royalties from any company selling 802.11a, 802.11g or WiMAX certified equipment," the company said. ®

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