Bluetooth patent suit filed in the USA

One news story to watch over the coming weeks is a patent suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The Washington Research Foundation administers patents relating to research done at the University of Washington. Just before Christmas the Foundation filed suit against Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic (Matsushita) saying that they had sold & imported infringing technology.

The companies involved all use Bluetooth chips from Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR). Lego also uses CSR Bluetooth chips in the Lego NXT. Lego is unlikely to be directly involved the court case at any point, (the number of Bluetooth devices it has sold are relatively small), but may be affected by the outcome.

Over 1 billion (1000 000 000) Bluetooth devices have been sold and CSR is considered to have over 50% of the market. Rival Bluetooth chipset maker Broadcom has reportedly licensed the Washington Research Foundation patents.

Happy New Year to all Lego NXT fans from Cambridge, UK.

- Tony N


Anonymous said…
I had to do a current events report on that today...:)

Personally, I don't know enough about it, the article (non-plural) that I read didn't give any details about the specific chipset that is in question, so I don't know who to "root" for, are the companies at fault for violating a patent, or does the non-profit organization not know what they're saying?
It's funny how companies/organizations wait so long to file these suits... similar to the one last year against Blackberry/RIM. The technology grows and expands its user-base and then someone steps in and says "I invented it and I want everyone to pay me a $XX.00 royalty."

I'm no patent lawyer (or lawyer, period) but I've often wondered if it should be legal for universities to hold patents, considering that they receive federal and state funding (in the USA). That's a total side-topic, sorry...

Anonymous said…
Must be a slow news day.

Just teasing, NXT STEP. I guess this is relevant since it involves bluetooth.

Keep up the good work this year. It seems that only NXT STEP and NXTASY are blogging these days about NXT so please don't stop. The Lego websites and BNXT are dead in the water. Our news sources are drying up!
Tony Naggs said…
Hi Maniac

Part of the background is that the companies participating in creating the Bluetooth standard have agreed not to charge license fees to implementors for any patents they hold.

As for timing, it is a little odd that the inventor studied at Washington University in the mid-90's but one of the patent applications was filed in 2003. This was granted only in October 2006, hence presumably the law suit being filed now. (Sources: The Seattle Times and TechWorld)

I do not know the low level details of Bluetooth, but I am curious as to what technology could be in a 2003 patent that was not obviously deducible by an radio technology engineer from the earliest (1998) publication of the Bluetooth specification.

- Tony N
Tony Naggs said…
Hi anonymous

I think the joy of The NXT Step is the diversity of interests of the contributors. My interests include hacking hardware and Tech news.

The most extreme outcome of the case is that the Washington Research Foundation gains an injunction against the import and sale of all products with CSR Bluetooth chips. This is very unlikely, usually patent cases will be resolved before escalating to this level.

However the threat is potentially there, and if it happened it could affect availability many products including the Lego NXT.

- Tony N
Hi, Anonymous... I'll agree with Tony on the topic that The NXT Step and NXTasy are able to post frequently and with more diverse topics due to the number of contributors involved.

LEGO (and LEGO Ed) are businesses and my guess is that they don't have a full-time staff (or even single employee) dedicated to updating their blog and news sections. BNXT was created by Filip and he and his wife had a baby last year... I'm pretty certain he's got his hands full right now :)

Christmas has just ended... and a LOT of people received an NXT set as a gift. I think we'll see some more blogs or websites pop up this year dedicated to the NXT.

Hang in there... we'll obviously post when we have something newsworthy or interesting. The NXT is still less than 1 year old... the RCX had 8+ years to develop content, books, websites, etc... the NXT will get there.

Brian Davis said…
As to the "keep blogging" comments, we will... just remember we need time to play to generate blog content as well :-) !

Brian Davis

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