Wi-LAN throws down Bluetooth patent glove
Not content with ongoing Wi-Fi suits
Updated Fighting everyone involved in Wi-Fi and WiMAX is not enough for Canadian patent hoarder Wi-LAN, which is now also slapping a suit on 31 companies connected to Bluetooth.
The list of targets includes Apple, Intel, Dell and Sony, along with component manufacturers such as Marvell, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, all of which are accused of breaching patent number 5,515,369 which covers just the kind of synchronised frequency hopping Bluetooth relies on.
This is not the only technology Wi-LAN has in its extensive portfolio - the company has ongoing litigation against most of the world regarding unavoidable components in the Wi-Fi standards. It also claims ownership of key patents covering WiMAX.
Apparently more than 220 companies have entered into licensing agreements with Wi-LAN, though the majority of those are for the company's V-Chip patents. Cisco was an early target which got called to court in 2004 and settled with the company in 2005, though the details of the settlement remain opaque. Other targets didn't get off so quickly: "Wi-LAN vs the rest of the world" has been rumbling on for two and a half years now to see who owns Wi-Fi.
When it's not updating its various litigious activities (which get their own web pages) Wi-LAN apparently does its own research and development, though the Bluetooth-covering patent was developed by chaps working at Metricom back in 1996, one of whom is now a Wireless VP at Cisco. We've asked Wi-LAN how and when they acquired the Bluetooth patent, but have not heard back as yet.
Meanwhile the hotels and boarding houses around Texas will again play host to the world's best legal minds as they pore over every word and punctuation mark of the patent over the next year or two. ®
Updated: Wi-LAN did get back to us, seems they bought the patent just over a month ago (2nd March 2010) - so not a direct result of their own R&D.
I just read the patent and I can't believe that:
a) Garbage like that is actually accepted (the word "random" does not mean what those submitting the patent think it does).
b) Something that blatantly simple is patentable.
Without reading the patent I came up with a pretty similar scheme in my head while trying to work out how frequency hoping would be managed -- it's so damn obvious and lacking in technical detail that anyone with a vague idea about how devices may operate could come up with it.
I hate to admit but until now I hadn't read the patents over which the many brawls reported on the register have taken place -- but now I have I know that the US patent system is an innovation-killing cesspool which the world would be better off without.
has been around since the year dot
I worked on a frequency hopping digital radio system back in the mid eighties and I don't think the idea was new then. Surely anything patentable in this area should have expired by now.
Is the US patent office run as a profit centre?
Do the staff get bonuses for each patent registered?
Is there a monthly prise for the most absurd patent registered.
They did (yes, we were surprised too). Seems the patent was bought by Wi-LAN just over a month ago, and the story has been updated to note that.
It's been around though - Wi-LAN is the sixth owner of this patent.