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New Patent Suit Threatens Bluetooth Standard 61

Posted by Zonk
from the we-need-those-teeth-for-talking dept.
Aditi.Tuteja writes "A U.S. research institute has sued Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Matsushita-owned Panasonic for violating a patent on Bluetooth technology, potentially putting the free wireless standard at risk. The Washington Research Foundation, which markets technology from the University of Washington, is seeking damages from the three mobile-phone makers for using a radio frequency receiver technology without paying royalties. From the article: 'According to the lawsuit, Bluetooth-based computers, cell phones and headsets made by the companies have violated four patents for research done in the mid-1990s by Edwin Suominen when he was a student at the University of Washington. All four patents are now licensed by the Washington Research Foundation. The foundation's lead counsel on the case, Steven Lisa, said the court filing followed two years of informal attempts to resolve the issue with the major players in the industry.'"
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New Patent Suit Threatens Bluetooth Standard

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  • by terrymr (316118)
    You know I think this already happened. Like two days ago or something.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You know I think this already happened. Like two days ago or something.


      True, but it was submitted to Slashdot using Bluetooth phone and there's a slight delay.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by j00r0m4nc3r (959816)
      When somebody patents the dupe, Slashdot will owe billions in licensing fees...
  • Dupe Alert (Score:3, Informative)

    by trentfoley (226635) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @03:54AM (#17486138) Homepage Journal
    you can also read about it here! [slashdot.org]
  • Repeat (Score:1, Redundant)

    by rborek (563153)
    I seem to have seen this discussed before [slashdot.org]
  • by aslvrstn (1047588) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @03:57AM (#17486150)
    I was under the impression that Bluetooth was an open standard, and it looks like the suits involve specific chipsets used by the companies in question, not the standard as a whole.
    • by Kalriath (849904)
      Yeah, only because the OTHER Bluetooth chipset manufacturer actually pays their ridiculous licensing fees. The one that Sony, Nokia, etc, use is based in the UK and gives UoW the finger everytime they demand royalties.
  • beginner (Score:3, Funny)

    by Andrei D (965217) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @04:24AM (#17486254)
    Hello!
    I am new to this Slashdot thing. I have trouble understanding this... Wasn't this story posted before? It's like the same story posted twice.What's the word for it? Doop?
    • Re:beginner (Score:5, Funny)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @05:08AM (#17486356)
      Hello newb, it really seems you don't understand, but this is not an error. At /., we tend to repeat things in all areas because our most of our members (Americans) have ADD and/or short memories. This explains the reelection of our Beloved Leader in 2004 nicely.

      Hello newb, it really seems you don't understand, but this is not an error. At /., we tend to repeat things in all areas because our most of our members (Americans) have ADD and/or short memories. This explains the reelection of our Beloved Leader in 2004 nicely.
    • by Joebert (946227)
      You see, here at Slashdot, there's soo much intresting material that sometimes even the editors here read a story and say "Hey, I should post this on Slashdot, they'ld love it !".
    • by kwrxxx (1038350)
      The word is Dupe.

      Main Entry: 3dupe
      Function: noun
      : DUPLICATE
      - dupe verb

  • first dupe of the year?
  • by hughk (248126) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @05:26AM (#17486406) Journal

    If you google him, you will find that Edwin Suominen is a patent agent [eepatents.com] who studied RF at university and assigned some patents there. Despite his name (Suominen), he doesn't seem to have any Finnish connection (Suomi, is the Finnish name for themselves). I had wondered at first whether he had any connection to another well known Finnish company [nokia.com] which was heavily involved in the original research. What is unusual is that he seems to have acquired a number of patents (about 4) whilst studying as an undergraduate at University.

    The thing is that the original BT work done in Finland/Sweden (mostly the latter) was done some time ago. It has taken a very long time to catch on in the US but started appearing in the mid nineties. Simple implementations appeared a little later and it may be interesting to look at the history of this patent against when the first single chip implmentation appeared (about 98). It could well be that some existing technology leaked.

    • by Chainsaw (2302) <jens...backman@@@gmail...com> on Saturday January 06, 2007 @05:33AM (#17486432) Homepage
      An interesting thing to note here... The Bluetooth standard was developed by Ericsson, the swedish company that manufactures mobile phones and phone switching systems. They also have the most complete and reliable Bluetooth implementation in their phones. However, they are NOT listed as one of the companies being sued.
      • by angulion (132742)
        This might be because Ericssons mobile phone division (at least) wasn't going too well and was sold to Sony, hence Sony Ericsson. Maybe this Suominen is a PS2/3 fan? ;)
        • by harmic (856749)
          Actually Ericsson did not sell their mobile phone division to Sony, they formed a joint venture with Sony. The joint venture is 50:50 owned by Sony and Ericsson. See here [sonyericsson.com] for some info.

          The mobile telephony part of Sony Ericsson phones is supplied by EMP (Ericsson Mobile Platforms, a unit of Ericsson, see here [ericsson.com] for some info). Other phone manufacturers use the platform from EMP. So maybe EMP has negotiated some deal with these guys in order not to be sued?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kitgerrits (1034262)
      You are indeed correct, except for a few details: (from Wikipedia:) The Bluetooth specification was first developed in 1994 by Sven Mattisson and Jaap Haartsen, who were working for Ericsson Mobile Platforms in Lund, Sweden at the time[1]. ... (the Bluetooth consortium) was established by Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Nokia, and later joined by many other companies as Associate or Adopter members What's most surprising is, that one of the founding members has stop developing a while ag
      • by hughk (248126)
        I'm probably quite stupid but all of Suominem's patent's seem to be orientated towards hardware (or h/w techniques implemented in software). I couldn't identify any with a quick Google search that are connected with the BT protocol. This is available through membership of the BT syndicate. What interests me is his name suggestes a nordic link. Was he working anywhere in the nineties where he could have preliminary access to the technology?
        • by kitgerrits (1034262) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @09:31AM (#17487148)
          I have to admit that I am not a Bluetooth Expert, but I do have a degree in Electrical Engineering.

          With embedded devices (especially low-power ones, like bluetooth headsets),
          the trick is in making the hardware comply with the protocol,
          but the art is doing so with as little (electrical) effort as possible.

          If he can design a chip that takes care of the entire Bluetooth side of things,
          which consumes only a fraction of what a microcontroller does,
          that chip design saves engeineers of embedded devices a lot of effort.
          They are, however, expected to pay for the use of his design.

          This form of outsourced development is what makes the patent-world tick.
          Actually accomplishing the same, without infringeing on those patents, is one of the things makes the F/OSS world tick.

          My guess is, that he probably came in contact with the early Bluetooth ideas and tinkered with those in his spare time in College.
          This, of itself, means that the implementations he designed in college are owned by said college, which applied for a patent and got lucky
          • by symbolic (11752)
            I'm wondering if this research effort was funded - and if so, was it funded with a public grant? I do not believe that universities should in any way be able to claim ownership of any patentable ideas they develop with public funding - being publicly funded, they should be publicly owned.
          • by paniq (833972)
            I like your style of serving a stream of thoughts as a poem. Nicely done.
            • Thanks!
              I'm an incredible scatterbrain and I just found the html formatting tags at the bottom of the text box.
              I thought I'd try making sense for a change ;-)

              It took about 6 edits/reviews, but I'm glad the effort was appreciated
          • I was under the impression that student work is patentable and copyrightable (and auto-copyrighted) by the STUDENT, as inventor and author respectively.

            If the student does the work as part of a funded project the terms of the funding may result in assignment of the patent rights. Similarly, if he is employed by the university and develops an invention on paid time and/or with school equipment, this may also give the school a claim. And if the student develops an invention at school he may solicit and rece
  • What about Ericsson? (Score:2, Informative)

    by methamorph (950510)
    Ericsson, the company that played the biggest part in the development of Bluetooth is not even mentioned in the suit. So this is probably something about a way of implementing a certain part of the standard, and not the whole standard itself. To say that this is endangering bluetooth as technology is a bit exagerating.
  • Presumably the alleged "patent violators" are seeking to have the patent annulled? More people should do that; and one day, just from the ton of feathers effect, a bad patent will be annulled.
  • by NimbleSquirrel (587564) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @09:35AM (#17487168)
    Bluetooth came about in 1998, with the consortium formed between Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba.

    The earliest of Mr Suominen's patents assigner to the University of Washington [google.com] was filed in 1996, but wasn't granted until 1999. Of the four of Mr Suominen's patents assigned to the University of Washington, only one was filed before the formation of the Bluetooth consortium, and none of them were issued until after. It is entirely possible that Ericsson (or one of the other original Bluetooth founders) would have IP that predates the 1998 formation of the consortium.

    The fact that the filing is only against three handset manufacturers, all of which have Bluetooth chipsets manufactured by CSR PLC in the UK, shows that this isn't an attack on Bluetooth, just one method of its implementation. Oddly enough, the lawsuit is going after the handset manufacturers and not the chipmaker. This just shows that they are only after money, and to rustle up some FUD regarding non-Broadcom chipsets. This is reinforced comments from Rob Enderle [wikipedia.org] (whose previous clients include Microsoft and SCO): "Defendants would be quick to settle if it appeared the case was immediately threatening their product lines".

    Undoubtedly, the defense would most likely claim Laches [wikipedia.org] against any possible injunction. It is also highly likely that other memebers of the Bluetooth consortium would leverage their IP to prove prior art. It seems Washington Research Foundation and Mr Suominen have quite a large uphill battle in their hands.

    I don't think this case will last very long, and even if they were successful, I'm sure Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic would just move to a different chipset in the future.

    • by rippa242 (1047800)
      Laches won't be of much help; the asserted patent (the '963) was granted 3-Oct-2006. Worse, the prosecution history shows they requested a prompt issuance to, if memory serves, "assist in their licensing activities."
  • Ok Blue tooth has been around since 1998-ish, Why wait till now to make a fuss? Any Idea's I work on, I research heavily to see if there are alternatives out there. Blue tooth has been in the news for a long time, seriously why wait till now? I wish there was a law that says if you hate a better part of a decade to sue for your patent, you should lose out. But then again, I want a law that says no vaguely worded patents, be precise, and not have it describe 15 million things.
    • Ok Blue tooth has been around since 1998-ish, Why wait till now to make a fuss? Any Idea's I work on, I research heavily to see if there are alternatives out there. Blue tooth has been in the news for a long time, seriously why wait till now? I wish there was a law that says if you hate a better part of a decade to sue for your patent, you should lose out. But then again, I want a law that says no vaguely worded patents, be precise, and not have it describe 15 million things.

      Two things. Bluetooth may ha

  • This really is more of the same old; "Follow the Money".... Some greedy bastard decides he wants money for something and gets a lawyer involved. They'll screw it up every time.
  • Delayed Suits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday January 06, 2007 @12:31PM (#17488372) Homepage Journal
    If a large corporation delays filing a complant until *after* the technology has been adopted and is in wide use "oh, gee, you owe us money" i think they should lose most their rights for compensation. ( notice i said most, not all )

    They knew it was in violation in the beginning, they should have spoke up long ago.
    • I'll up you one. I think that if anyone files a patent suit after the technology has been widely adopted, they should lose all of their rights with respect to the patent, and be assessed a big, fat fine.

      If we tolerate these parasites, we'll eventually be eaten alive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nurb432 (527695)
        I say most, as sometimes they are honestly missed until its too late, especially when you are talking *small* companies or private individuals. I would not want to start a bad precedent where the little guys get screwed.

        But we do agree there should be some penalty for people waiting to let others do the dirty work, then profit off that.
      • The guy came up with a unique way of handling RF on a silicon chip and filed a patent for it. The technique is in no way particular to bluetooth, or required for bluetooth. There are other applications for for his patent (UWB, Cell Phones, or 802.11 networking maybe?), and there are other ways to create devices that work according to the bluetooth standard.

        The foundation that manages the patent did not know that these products were infringing on the patent. To find out, they probably had to take a scan

        • by mkcmkc (197982)
          [should they have to pay?]

          I'm probably the wrong person to ask, as I believe that the patent system is a substantial net drag on technical and societal progress--period. So, yes, as I would prefer that we lived in a world without patents, I would prefer that no one ever had to pay license fees.

    • by Sancho (17056) *
      If a large corporation delays filing a complant until *after* the technology has been adopted and is in wide use "oh, gee, you owe us money" i think they should lose most their rights for compensation. ( notice i said most, not all )

      I can agree with that.

      They knew it was in violation in the beginning, they should have spoke up long ago.

      How do you know that they knew? Have you read up on this subject at all?

      The patents on which "Bluetooth" (or rather, "specific implementations of Bluetooth in the current ma
      • by nurb432 (527695)
        Well of cousre we have to find out if they were 'cheating' the system. Im all for being 'fair' and not roasting innocents.
  • I thought I recognized the names of the attornies active in the later prosecution of the patents-at-suit and the attorneys filing the suit. Hoffman, Lisa and Hosier were part of the Lemelson foundation lawsuit gang that siphoned a LOT of money out of the barcode industry before the patents were declared invalid.

  • Thats fine thought let the US Patent office Kill the Tech in the US.
    Its fine from here since our country does not reconize the US patent office or its laws surrounding this.

    I guess the spec will still be valid here then.

  • I'm sorry, call me picky, but if the research that leads to a discovery is conducted at and funded by a public university, then the entire discovery should be open-sourced, not patented and hoarded for the selfish enrichment of the university or particular people involved.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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