Bluetooth vendors face major patent battle

What was it that Yogi Berra said about "deja vu all over again?" Quite a few WiFi vendors are looking forward with anxiety and more than a bit of gloom to the royalties bill they may soon receive from Australian research organization CSIRO: The Aussie tech-savvy outfit holds hundreds of patents, and some of them directly relate to OFDM technology. The organization is on the way to winning a major case against Buffalo Technology in a Texas Court, and a few weeks ago a San Francisco judge, in a move which could bolster the CSIRO case, moved to the Texas judge for adjudication a slew of counter suits launched against the Australians by a group of U.S. tech giants.

Now, it appears, it is the turn of Bluetooth vendors to become anxious and gloomy. The University of Washington's patent-licensing unit (called the Washington Research Foundation, or WRF) has sued four electronics vendors--Nokia, Samsung, Matsushita and Panasonic of North America--which incorporate Bluetooth chips made by CSR into their products. The WRF holds patents created by an undergraduate at the school, and the Huskies claim that CSR chips infringe on these patents. Note that WRF has a licensing agreement with Broadcom, one of CSR's competitors.

The Seattle Times reports that the patents were developed in the mid-1990s, but that one of them was not filed until 2003, and was granted only in October 2006. The Bluetooth SIG's members agreed to cross-license technology, but WRF is outside that process.

For more on the Bluetooth patent clash:
- see Nancy Gohring's Techworld report
- Tricia Duryee's Seattle Times report
- this Forbes report