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WiLAN strikes at 8 tech companies over patents

Fri, 09/02/2011 - 8:35am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

WiLAN is suing Apple, Alcatel-Lucent, Dell, HP, HTC, Kyocera, Novatel Wireless and Sierra Wireless for patent infringement.

WiLAN, which describes itself as a "leading technology innovation and licensing company," has gained a reputation as a patent troll for using broad patents on commonly used technology to sue numerous tech companies.

For instance, it sued more than 20 electronics makers over a Bluetooth patent, including Apple, Intel, Dell, HP, LG, Sony, Texas Instruments, Marvel and Motorola.

WiLAN's latest legal salvo alleges that the eight companies are violating two patents on CDMA, HSPA, Wi-Fi and LTE, U.S. Patent No. RE37,802 and U.S. Patent No. 5,282,222.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The Texas court has become a haven for patent complaints, and WiLAN currently has several other suits pending in the district.

WiLAN makes money from licensing its patent portfolio to tech companies and suing companies that allegedly use its technology without paying.

Since January, Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, Motorola, Cisco and Texas Instruments have signed licensing agreements with WiLAN to settle charges of patent infringement.

WiLAN says more than 250 companies have negotiated licenses to its patent portfolio.

Intellectual property licensing companies like WiLAN and Lodsys have tied up the legal system with patent lawsuits. The complaints have become a headache for wireless device manufacturers and are especially problematic for small app developers, which lack the resources to defend themselves in court.

Corporations are also major players in the patent wars. Apple and Microsoft have been accused of using their patent positions to squash competition from Google's Android operating system, and they teamed up with other tech companies to place a successful $4.5 billion bid on Nortel's intellectual property portfolio earlier this summer.

Android's troubles in court, exemplified by European injunctions against Samsung's Galaxy devices, prompted Google's $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility last month. Motorola holds more than 24,000 patents and patent applications worldwide.

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