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Patents Hardware

Bluetooth Lawsuit 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the sue-everyone dept.
Krish writes "The Seattle Times reports that a local Washington state group is suing cellphone makers for patent infringement on bluetooth devices. Research conducted by a University of Washington undergraduate more than a decade ago has become the subject of a lawsuit filed against some of the largest cellphone manufacturers in the world. The suit claims that consumer electronics giant Matsushita and its Panasonic unit, as well as Samsung and Nokia, are infringing on four patents sold under the 'Bluetooth' name."
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Bluetooth Lawsuit

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  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:17PM (#17454238)
    I think there should be a certain time limit set on patent infringement cases called "the dumbass period" where after that time has passed, you're a complete dumbass for just realizing the patent infringement then and your case is automatically thrown out. Unless he was stuck in a desert island for the last couple years and just got rescued, he or the group or whatever should stop this pathetic attempt at scamming some money from companies.
    • by RITMaloney (928883) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:22AM (#17454780)
      There is. Its called LACHES!

      http://www.converium.com/2103.asp [converium.com]
    • by kjart (941720) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:02AM (#17455436)

      I tend to agree with that assessment. In this case, however, it's not the Bluetooth protocol that's infringing, it's the hardware implementation (i.e. the chips) that are apparently infringing. Realizing that said chips were infringing your patents would probably be a non-trivial thing to discover. From the article:

      He said a number of the Bluetooth chipset manufacturers appeared to be infringing on the patent. One company, Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom, agreed to license the technology. Another company CSR of Cambridge, United Kingdom, did not, Reagh said.

      The second company, CSR, sells their chips to the cell phone makers who are being sued.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)
        Excellent point. Discovering infringement of patents that cover integrated circuit internals is EXTREMELY difficult.

        Decapping an IC properly and analyzing the internal circuitry is extremely expensive and time consuming. I wouldn't be surprised if they had spent 2-3 years simply determining whether the chips infringed or not. Of course, by that time the chips would be replaced with new models and UW would have to either:
        a) Prove the new chips were designed similarly to the old ones
        b) Seek only damages
        • by powerlord (28156)

          Excellent point. Discovering infringement of patents that cover integrated circuit internals is EXTREMELY difficult.

          Decapping an IC properly and analyzing the internal circuitry is extremely expensive and time consuming. I wouldn't be surprised if they had spent 2-3 years simply determining whether the chips infringed or not. Of course, by that time the chips would be replaced with new models and UW would have to either:
          a) Prove the new chips were designed similarly to the old ones
          b) Seek only damages for p

    • the descendants of the king of Denmark should sue because they are using his name without permission. LOL.... I wish I was a judge sometimes, so I could clean up the docket that has all of these stupid lawsuits pending.....
    • I am not sure if it's actually written into law, but routinely that very concept is brought up in court and the grounds that the patent holder has failed to enforce his rights and has thus forfeit them. I mean, it's not like bluetooth on a cell phone is a secret. It's advertised and sold on almost every phone by almost every provider.
    • by Thansal (999464)

      He said a number of the Bluetooth chipset manufacturers appeared to be infringing on the patent. One company, Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom, agreed to license the technology. Another company CSR of Cambridge, United Kingdom, did not, Reagh said.

      Matsushita, Samsung and Nokia are some of CSR's largest customers, said WRF attorney Steven Lisa. Instead of suing CSR, he said the organization decided to act against the handset makers because the chipset manufacturer may not know which chips are headed to the Unit

  • the patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:20PM (#17454268) Journal
    the article was kind of vague. this [google.com] is the patent in question. Personally, it seems kind of obvious, but that's how it goes.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      Really? Because this patent has its:

      Filing date: Oct 27, 2001
      Issue date: Oct 7, 2003
      How can bluetooth infringe this patent when it was out in the late 90's iirc
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by chillax137 (612431)
        They are not filing suit against Bluetooth. UW is filing suit against chipmakers that are using the Bluetooth protocol. There is something in the design of these chips (created by third parties) that they are claiming is violating their patent.
        • actually, from TFA they are suing the handset makers, not the chipset manufacturers. "Matsushita, Samsung and Nokia are some of CSR's largest customers, said WRF attorney Steven Lisa. Instead of suing CSR, he said the organization decided to act against the handset makers because the chipset manufacturer may not know which chips are headed to the United States, where the patent is enforceable, but the device-maker would."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hirsto (601188)
        The patent you linked to is a "continuation in part" of patent 6427068 which is a divisional patent of 5937341. This original patent was filed Sept. 13 1996 and granted Aug. 10 1999. The original patent was also titled "Simplified high frequency tuner and tuning methods" which appears to show a very low cost method tuning/conversion/image rejection and digital signal recovery. The DSP techniques described (modified type III Hilbert transform pair) seem to be where the action is but most of what is descri
        • by Andy Dodd (701)
          I would need to read the patent more to comment on it, but while the individual techniques are all well-known, the architecture of the whole receiver seems to be what this covers.

          To me it looks like a very narrow patent, it would be extremely difficult to prove that an IC used this particular architecture, and would be reasonably easy to work around I think.

          Sort of like how no one can patent a wheel (prior art) or a tire (prior art), but Goodyear could patent a specific tread pattern or novel method of manu
          • by Xanius (955737)
            That's exactly the groups point though. The article points out that it's easy to do it in a non-infringing way or get the chips from broadcom. Since the companies wouldn't do either of those they are filing a suit.
      • The university didn't patent bluetooth per se, but a certain way of doing something. Maybe it was the particular design of the radio antenna on a chip, which may be able to be done several ways. All bluetooth devices don't necessarily infringe on the patent.

        And if you follow Microsoft's thinking, they could go after any company that has bought any bluetooth hardware, not just the manufacturers or distributors.

    • I would agree that it seems a little obvious, but have to admit, it's really good work for a student... The article mentions 4 patents, it would be interesting to know the other three.
    • From the link:

      Patent number: 6631256
      Filing date: Oct 27, 2001
      Issue date: Oct 7, 2003

      Oct 27, 2001 is more than a decade ago? I'd suspect this is not the patent being discussed.

      We're probably talking about a few of the older ones (didn't read them, only a quick search on the authors name)

      6,631,256 Simplified high frequency tuner and tuning method
      6,427,068 Simplified high frequency tuner and tuning method
      6,069,913 Method and apparatus for determining an identifying bit sequence in a radio frequency waveform
      6,0
    • by russotto (537200)
      Isn't claim 1 of that patent superheterodyning, with the slight addition (also not novel) that you can choose the upper image or the lower image?
  • The article is a bit light on details. The only mention I can find is "The patents trace back to Ed Suominen, a student who was studying radio design at the University of Washington before receiving a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1995." What specific invention did the cellphone manufacturers infringe on? Why did they wait so long to file suit?
    • Here are Suominen's patents [google.com] on Google Patents. The relevant WU patent seems to be 6,631,256: Simplified high frequency tuner and tuning method.

      It's a design for an image-rejecting mixer with low intermediate frequency. It's not specific to bluetooth but the type of RF tricks used in this patent are important for building a receiver on a silicon chip while minimizing the number of external analog components.
  • God i hate all these people who have the most simple, easy to come to conclusion implimentation patents. It just pisses me off big time that company's patent this stuff and then cry wolf when someone else comes to the same conclusion on their own. It's just someone wanting to make money and nothing more.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rainwater (530678)
      These patents in question are certainly not simple. Perhaps you should try reading them? Whether or not they infringe is a different story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xenographic (557057)
        When you say "not simple" do you mean "written in dense legalese which would be useless for recreating the 'invention'" or "an invention that is not stupidly obvious"?

        Just wondering; seemed kinda vague :]
      • by Fooker (656693)
        This case isn't the perfect example of something "simple", but it's what prompted me to say something about it. I just hate it when someone patents a "technique" or something that is something that everone, given they are looking for a way to do something, would come up with pretty easily on their own. Much like these damn bio-tech company's and schools that are doing gene research who are getting patents on gene sequences that naturally occure in the human body. How the hell can they patent that stuff? Jus
  • The whole spec that is bluetooth is basically an IP disaster as it is anyway. Even proper hardware [enrii.com] isn't immune from the dreaded "license error of death".
    • The Windows Bluetooth drivers definitely do seem to be an absolute disaster, at least as far as the WIDCOMM ones are concerned. AFAIK, the problem arises because the WIDCOMM driver (which is made by someone other than the hardware manufacturer -- the HW mfrs. just toss it in as an alternative to rolling their own) use the hardware ID of the BT device as part of license enforcement. But a lot of cheap BT devices seem to have zeroed-out hardware IDs, plus the driver doesn't seem to be too good about realizing
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``So it seems pretty clear that the WIDCOMM stack is inferior. Why are people tolerating it? And why are the manufacturers paying WIDCOMM for something that's otherwise free?''

        Well, these are the same people that use Windows. You could ask the same questions about that...
  • by argoff (142580) * on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:35PM (#17454412)
    If I recall, the US govt paid Qualcomm over 100 million dollars to do R&D on RF technology for military communications. Then just as the technology started to become developed in the market, they patented the shit out of everything to do with CDMA. I always thought that was sort of unfair, after all my tax money paid for that R&D, and even if it didn't - it seemed like there was incentive was already out and that it was going to be invented anyhow,
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:46AM (#17455172)
      If I recall, the US govt paid Qualcomm over 100 million dollars to do R&D on RF technology for military communications.

      If Qualcomm did the R&D work as part of an open bid contract to develop a product or provide service to the government AND the product or service was indeed provided on time and per the terms of the agreement then I am not against Qualcomm profiting from their work on the contract in future dealings. However, if this money was given as a grant or the product or service was NOT delivered as per the terms of the agreement then Qualcomm has some explaining to do.

      Then just as the technology started to become developed in the market, they patented the shit out of everything to do with CDMA.

      If the entire arrangement was above board (which it probably was not) then there is no problem with this, especially if Qualcomm had language in the contract stating that they had the right to patent any technology that came out of the research (probably in return for granting a perpetual license to the government). However, I am generally against funding research projects with public money (there are too many projects that would want funding) and especially when the project could feasibly be funded with private investment. This is the reason why I voted AGAINST the stem cell research bonds here in California. If the investors feel so poorly about an opportunity that they do not want to risk their own money then why should the public be forced to take that risk? It is also the case, as you have already said, that if the risk DOES pay off then the public gets screwed out of their rightful return on the investment. The same thing goes for airline bailouts and most other forms of corporate charity. If the taxpayers do not share in the rewards then why should we share in the pain when these business ventures fail?

      I always thought that was sort of unfair, after all my tax money paid for that R&D, and even if it didn't - it seemed like there was incentive was already out and that it was going to be invented anyhow.

      It is unfair and if something is really that worthwhile then there usually is enough incentive already out there for private investment to develop it. The few projects that are left (i.e. stem cell research, farm products research, and other bogus or risky projects funded by taxpayers) are usually lemons or very risky (junk bond type investments with high risks and long payoff horizons) and the public gets stuck holding the bag.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        This is the reason why I voted AGAINST the stem cell research bonds here in California. If the investors feel so poorly about an opportunity that they do not want to risk their own money then why should the public be forced to take that risk?

        Because some things (including quality of life) should not have a price. Companies exist to make money, and that's all there is to it. Some research fields should be protected from capitalism because a lack of profitability does not mean a lack of virtuousness.
        • Because some things (including quality of life) should not have a price.

          This is a common sentiment among the left and it sounds good during an election year (i.e. won't somebody please think of the children?), but it is not grounded in the reality of a world with limited resources and competing priorities. The chance that any individual citizen will ultimately benefit from stem cell research, for example, is so small relative to the cost of the research and the probability that the research will not tur
  • From the article-
    "You can find a way to do it [use Bluetooth] that doesn't infringe on the patents, or you can buy it from Broadcom. That's why WRF is not going to sit back and let it go without it being addressed," Lisa said.

    That's "not going to sit back" in the exact same sense that I'm not going to sit back and post to a slashdot non-story, trashed, and listening to cricket at 4:30 in the morning.

  • Perhapshe would ask: "Can't we all just get along?"
  • I was thinking about creating bluetooth devices years ago...they must have read my mind! That's it...I'm calling my lawyer!
  • WRF highlights [wrfseattle.org] four patents (seen here: 1 [patentmonkey.com], 2 [patentmonkey.com], 3 [patentmonkey.com], 4 [patentmonkey.com]) on their technology website dating back to 1996 covering a range of rf technology advances. They all cover building inventions on "...a useful device and method for receiving and tuning RF signals, with quadrature mixing to a near baseband passband performed in continuous-time and image rejection and translation to baseband performed in discrete-time. The device may also be adapted to transmit RF signals if desired."

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