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Agere files patent suit over Wi-Fi

The chipmaker files a patent suit against rival Intersil, alleging that the company is using its techniques without paying to do so.

Wi-Fi chipmaker Agere Systems has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against rival Intersil, the company said Friday.

The lawsuit alleges that Intersil has been using Agere's patented wireless techniques in Intersil chipsets without paying for the right to do so. Agere has patented six wireless techniques, all involving the 802.11b standard.

The Agere patents involve the three major pieces of a Wi-Fi chipset using the 802.11b standard. Those elements, which are at the core of every Wi-Fi access point and modem, consist of a power amplifier, which boosts the Wi-Fi signal; a radio to broadcast the signal; and a media access controller, which puts data on a computer network.

With patents now being questioned, Wi-Fi equipment makers may wait for clarification on any new licensing schemes before going ahead with full-scale production, said Jupiter Research wireless analyst Joe Laszlo.

Networks based on Wi-Fi, or 802.11b wireless standard, have grown in popularity. Wi-Fi equipment allows people to surf the Web wirelessly, typically within a 300-foot radius surrounding a wireless hub.

Intersil Chief Executive Rich Beyer denied Agere Systems' allegations, calling them "wholly without merit." He said production of the company's Wi-Fi chips will go on as scheduled while the company defends itself.

Intersil is the only defendant named in the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Delaware. Intersil has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Wi-Fi chipmaker Proxim, which now owns Agere's Wi-Fi product division, in March filed a similar patent infringement lawsuit against 3Com, Cisco Systems, Intersil and Symbol. The case is still pending, a Proxim representative said Friday. The four companies deny infringing on Proxim's patents.