WiLAN sues Apple, others over wireless patents

It says the targeted companies, which also include HP, Dell, and HTC, violate two of its patents related to CDMA, HSPA, Wi-Fi, and LTE.

WiLAN, a company that holds a number of patents related to the wireless industry, has launched another patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, WiLAN's suit alleges that the defendants, which also include HTC, Alcatel-Lucent, and Sierra Wireless, violate patent RE37,802, which relates to CDMA and HSPA communications, as well as patent 5,282,222, related to Wi-Fi and LTE.

Patent 5,282,222 is especially interesting because of how long it's been around and how broad it is. The patent was filed for in 1992, and issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1994. According to an abstract on the patent, it relates to "a method for allowing a number of wireless transceivers to exchange information (data, voice or video) with each other."

WiLAN has a long history of initiating litigation to get companies to license its patents. Founded in 1992, the company calls itself a "leading technology innovation and licensing company." According to the firm, it currently licenses its intellectual property to over 250 companies around the world that offer a range of products, including "3G and 4G handsets, Wi-Fi enabled laptops, [and] Wi-Fi and broadband routers."

All told, WiLAN has over 1,400 issued or pending patents.

Related stories:
• WiLAN sues everybody over Bluetooth
• WiLAN sues Comcast, Time Warner, Charter
• WiLAN files infringement suit against 22 firms

Lawsuits are very much the lifeblood of WiLAN. In fact, in a statement to shareholders in June, the company's chairman and CEO, Jim Skippen, highlighted the company's litigation as a key driving force behind its "record revenues" during its first quarter.

"WiLAN was transformed in the first quarter of fiscal 2011," Skippen said in a statement. "Agreements signed during the quarter with marquee corporations including Intel, Broadcom and Motorola contributed to record revenues during the quarter. The agreements also ended four major litigations which should contribute to a significant reduction in our future litigation expenses."

What's more, Skippen said he believes "that our past investment in litigation could generate a significant return in the future. Our record revenues and earnings in the first quarter signal the beginning of that return to WiLAN and its shareholders."

Speaking of that past litigation, WiLAN has been quite busy over the years. In 2007, the company sued 22 firms, including Apple and Sony, for patent infringement. Last April, it took aim at 18 companies over Bluetooth communications. In November, the company sued Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter Communications for allegedly violating its patents on cable systems and modems.

That suit followed a complaint against LG, Sony Ericsson, and several other companies for their alleged use of WiLAN patents related to mobile communications.

WiLAN's newest lawsuit is just the latest to hit the mobile market. Currently, a host of companies are embroiled in legal battles, including Oracle, Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft. The lawsuits involving those companies relate mostly to Google's Android platform. Oracle, for example, argues that Android violates patents it holds, while Microsoft is targeting several companies, including Barnes & Noble, for their use of Android.

All those lawsuits have been publicly criticized by Google. The company's chief legal officer, David Drummond, recently wrote in a blog post on the company's site that such patent lawsuits only hurt innovation in the mobile space.

"Android's success has yielded...a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and other companies, waged through bogus patents," Drummond wrote in the post . "Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it."

Based on WiLAN's history, it's likely that the company is less concerned about stifling innovation, and more about receiving licensing fees from the companies it's suing.

WiLAN and the contacted defendants in its case have not immediately responded to CNET's request for comment.

 

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