By Eric Griffith
June 22, 2007
It has already happened with Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth — patent infringement lawsuits are just how the game is played, at least by some — and now, ultrawideband (UWB) is the latest wireless tech to head to the courts.
Carlsbad, California-based semiconductor company Pulse~LINK is suing Sunnyvale-based Tzero Technologies for patent infringement.
Pulse~LINK claims to see a pattern going back to 2002, when it first demonstrated UWB over band-limited channels (like coax cables), and again in 2005 after it showed off a wireless HDMI connection using JPEG2000 image compression. Each time, it claims Tzero had similar announcements shortly after. Pulse~LINK says Tzero is replicating its innovations, and that Tzero’s products either do or will infringe on Pulse~LINK’s patents.
Tzero CEO Mike Gulett says, “We believe there is no basis for this complaint, and Tzero will aggressively defend itself against this claim.”
Pulse~LINK created the CWave UWB technology, which was once one of about three competitors to what would eventually become an official UWB standard. That effort in the IEEE died, and now the only standard is the one put forth by the WiMedia Alliance, which brought the technology to global standards bodies like ECMA. Tzero is a member of the WiMedia Alliance; Pulse~LINK is not.
Pulse~LINK says it still wants to work in “positive collaboration” with any company that wants to build technology based on CWave, but CEO Bruce Watkins said in a statement, “If we sit by and do nothing while a company like Tzero publicly copies us, others will certainly do the same. There are very strong indications this may already be happening due to Tzero’s actions.”
Unlike in recent cases with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, this is a case of two vendors going straight at each other for intellectual property (IP) issues. More recently, research firms have gone after vendors to try to collect royalties on patents. In the case of Bluetooth, the company in question (CSR) backed down and paid $15 million to Seattle-based nonprofit Washington Research Foundation (WRF). In Wi-Fi, things are still heating up, as the Australian national science agency CSIRO last week won an injunction in a Texas court against its first target, Buffalo Technology, that may force the vendor to pull products from shelves. Other vendors are fighting CSIRO’s patent in other courts that may be less inclined to give it what it wants.
• CSR Settles Bluetooth Lawsuit
• Buffalo Injunction May Prevent Sales
• In 2008, UWB Takes the World