Light Reading
Vendor will purchase and license patented WiFi technology

Cisco Relents on Wi-LAN Claims

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
12/5/2005
50%
50%

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
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Virtual CPE

1|27|15   |   01:38   |   (1) comment


As NFV strategies evolve from tests and trials to production telco networks, expect to hear a lot about virtual CPE (customer premises equipment) rollouts during 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
Optical Is Hot in 2015

1|23|15   |   01:56   |   (2) comments


Optical comms technology underpins the whole communications sector and there are some really hot trends set for 2015.
LRTV Custom TV
Policy Control in the Fast Lane

1|22|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


What's making policy control strategic in 2015 and beyond? Amdocs talks with Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie about the key factors driving change in the data services landscape. Find out what his policy management research reveals about the road ahead for policy control – and sign up for
LRTV Documentaries
Highlights From the 2020 Vision Executive Summit

1|21|15   |   4:33   |   (2) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading brought together telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Cisco's Doug Webster shared his company's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Harmonic, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment with Huawei

1|20|15   |   5:42   |   (1) comment


At IBC, Peter Alexander, Senior Vice President & CMO at Harmonic, speaks about the growing interest in pay-TV service and its branching into multiple devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sony Marketing Director Olivier Bovis Discusses the Outlook for 4K and Cooperation With Huawei at IBC 2014

1|20|15   |   6:50   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Envivio, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment

1|20|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pay-TV's Networked Future

1|20|15   |   6:29   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about the future of the pay-TV industry and its transition.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Jeff Heynen: Distributed Access Will Help MSOs Compete in the Future

1|20|15   |   2:26   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about moving to distributed access and the future trend of cable business.
LRTV Interviews
Cisco Talks Transformation

1|20|15   |   13:02   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Cisco VP of Products & Solutions Marketing Doug Webster at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Cisco's approach to network virtualization as well as how service providers can begin to monetize high-capacity networks through the end of the decade.
LRTV Interviews
Bob Wilson, Arsenal Legend: The Light Reading Interview

1|16|15   |   35:36   |   (3) comments


Arsenal goalkeeping legend Bob Wilson was Light Reading's guest interviewee at the 2020 Vision Executive Summit in December. See what the former soccer star and sports broadcaster had to say when he took to the stage in Iceland.
LRTV Custom TV
What MEF Third Network Initiative Means for SDN & NFV

1|14|15   |   6:13   |   (0) comments


Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss discusses the importance of the MEF Third Network initiative and why it's good news for SDN/NFV industry initiatives.
Upcoming Live Events
February 5, 2015, Washington, DC
February 19, 2015, The Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, CA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 9-10, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2-3, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
Infographics
Hot Topics
BlackBerry Wants Net Neutrality Protection – That's Just Sad
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/22/2015
FiOS Picks Up Pace Again
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 1/22/2015
Verizon Ready for Google MVNO Challenge
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/22/2015
Indiana Carrier Takes Fiber to the Farm
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/22/2015
The New Internet Space Race: Google's Final Frontier?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/21/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive