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Research Group Sues Electronics Giants over Bluetooth Patents

Research Group Sues Electronics Giants over Bluetooth Patents
January 3, 2007 12:16PM

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The Washington Research Foundation claims that Nokia, Matsushita (Panasonic), and Samsung have been using the patented Bluetooth technology in mobile phones and other devices without paying any royalties. The WRF, in addition to seeking monetary compensation, is asking for a court order barring the sale of products that use the technology.

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The Washington Research Foundation has filed lawsuits against three of the world's largest electronics companies for allegedly violating four patents related to Bluetooth technology.

The WRF -- a nonprofit group that seeks commercial uses for patented technology developed at the state's public universities -- is seeking damages from Nokia, Samsung, and Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic.

The WRF claims that the three electronics companies have been using the patented technology in mobile phones and other devices without paying royalties.

Cease and Desist

The WRF, in addition to seeking monetary compensation, is asking for a court order barring the sale of products that use the technology.

"We will not refuse reasonable settlements, but if we don't get an offer to do so, we are going to trial," Michael Lisa, the foundation's principal lawyer, was quoted in news reports as saying.

Lisa also said the court filing comes after unsuccessfully trying to come to terms with the three companies in negotiations that went on for more than three years.

The foundation reportedly had planned to go after the British-based Bluetooth chipset manufacturer CSR, which supplies the chips to the three electronics giants. However, the WRF decided to act against the handset makers directly, noting on its Web site that CSR might not know which chips where shipped to the United States where the patents are enforceable.

Big Impact

While the lawsuit focuses only on the big three firms, claiming each has violated four patents in all, the explosive adoption of Bluetooth technology in PDAs, laptops, and other mobile devices could have far-reaching implications well beyond the initial lawsuit, according to Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg.

"Bluetooth is extremely prevalent and is no longer the purveyance of tech enthusiasts," said Gartenberg. "It is in everything from mobile phones to operating systems. Bluetooth has gone beyond critical mass."

In fact, the technology has become so ubiquitous in wireless products in recent years that the number of devices with Bluetooth in them recently passed the one billion mark, according to ABI Research.

So far, the three companies have not publicly commented on the lawsuit and none were immediately available for comment for this report.

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