Light Reading

Cisco Relents on Wi-LAN Claims

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading

When (Nasdaq: CSCO) settled its patent dispute with Wi-LAN Inc. (Toronto: WIN) last week, many wireless industry observers thought, "Chalk one up for the trolls."

Coming on the heels of a legal decision last week that set aside a settlement in the patent dispute between BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM) and patent-holder NTP Software, the Cisco/Wi-LAN deal could be seen as emboldening so-called "patent trolls" -- companies that have little core business of their own but hold enforceable patents related to widespread technology used in products from larger, better known firms.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Cisco thought of Wi-LAN as a patent troll," says Pamela Samuelson, a law professor at UC Berkeley and the co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

That's a simplistic reading of the Wi-LAN case, though. In this case, while Cisco has challenged the Wi-LAN patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, Wi-LAN's claims seem more likely to hold up on appeal; the company has promised to "fairly and impartially" license the technology to anyone who wants to use it, and in May 2004 Redline Communications Inc. signed a royalty agreement with Wi-LAN, settling a case similar to the dispute with Cisco.

But the Wi-LAN case probably holds less significance for the wireless world than Qualcomm Inc.'s (Nasdaq: QCOM) acquisition of Flarion Technologies, which gives it a major intellectual-property position in emerging wireless technologies. And broader relief for product vendors that get sued by ostensible patent holders may be on the way, in the form of a Supreme Court ruling in the eBay vs. MercExchange case that should come next spring.

Founded in 1992 by two Canadian researchers, Wi-LAN holds a variety of patents related to orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), a modulation technique at the heart of the WiFi standards 802.11a and 802.11g, as well as the emergent WiMax standard 802.16. Wi-LAN has taken a visible role in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards process for wireless data transfer and has not been shy about announcing its intention to enforce its patents.

"This legal action against Cisco puts the industry on notice that Wi-LAN will aggressively protect its patent right," said Sayed-Amr El Hamamsy, then-CEO of Wi-LAN, when the company sued Cisco in Canadian court last year. (See Wi-LAN Takes On WiFi.)

Under the settlement agreement, all Wi-LAN legal claims against Cisco have been dropped, and Cisco is purchasing several WiMax and antenna patents, while licensing the remainder of Wi-LAN's patent portfolio. But that doesn't end Wi-LAN's pursuit of other companies it sees as infringing upon its patents, according to current CEO Bill Dunbar.

"We do believe that other companies are infringing," says Dunbar, declining to name them. "We are not currently in talks with any of them."

While it's unlikely that the courts will eliminate the scourge of patent trolls altogether, notes Samuelson, it may give judges in such cases more leeway to promote "the useful arts" -- which, after all, is one of the purposes of patent law.

Rather than issuing injunctions that essentially shut down major services, such as BlackBerry email or eBay auctions, explains Samuelson, the high court could allow judges to award damages relating only to specific, patented components of larger systems. "The Supreme Court, in the eBay case, could say 'This is a really complex thing,' and give the lower courts the ability to exercise more discretion in finding for the plaintiffs."

In other words: If there's a patent troll at your door, it might be wise to pacify him for a while, rather than settle for major dollars.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Network Security in a Gigabit World

10|6|15   |   05:52   |   (0) comments

Masergy's James Harrison talks about some of the network security and data center issues network operators need to consider as they expand their broadband services portfolios.
LRTV Documentaries
Telefónica: In Search of Virtual Simplicity

10|5|15   |   07:30   |   (0) comments

Francisco-Javier Ramon Salguero, head of Telefónica's NFV initiative, admits virtualization initially means greater complexity, but with the right abstraction layer, it is possible to create a services-driven network architecture. He explains how Telefónica's current trials and initiatives are aimed at doing that, and what his company and other carriers need to ...
LRTV Interviews
Gigabit Europe Takeaways

10|5|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Participants from the inaugural Gigabit Europe event in Munich share their key takeaways from the conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Urges Women to Take Advantage of Their Seat at the Table

10|5|15   |   4:27   |   (1) comment

Have inclusive and constructive conversations, attach a bigger meaning to your work and get involved in the cause, Intel's Monique Hayward advises women in comms.
LRTV Interviews
BT Updates on Plans

10|2|15   |   03:16   |   (2) comments

Peter Bell, CIO at Openreach, the access network division at UK incumbent BT, provides an update on the operator's trials and how Openreach is planning to deploy the broadband technology in its street cabinets.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Sonus Shakes Up SD-WAN

10|2|15   |   7:22   |   (0) comments

Sonus CTO Kevin Riley sat down with Light Reading to discuss the trajectory of the company, its SDN ambitions and why Sonus is taking a market-disruptive approve to SD-WAN.
LRTV Interviews
CityFibre's Gigabit Vision

10|1|15   |   03:18   |   (1) comment

Mark Collins, director of Strategy & Public Affairs at competitive UK city network operator CityFibre, talks about his company's plans to help build Gigabit Cities.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
Eurobites: Dunroamin'
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 10/2/2015
M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/6/2015
Cisco's Chambers Rules Out Political Bid
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/6/2015
Infinera Fleshes Out Its Metro 100G Story
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/7/2015
AT&T Gets Green Light for VoWiFi
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/7/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here