MANHASSET, N.Y. Wi-LAN Inc.'s announcement this week that it would be it would be escalating its patent-enforcement program by commencing legal action against Cisco Systems sent messages flying between members of two ultrawideband communications camps over whether or not similar action loomed there as well.
The two camps the Multiband-OFDM Alliance (MBOA) and direct-sequence UWB (DS-UWB) are currently deadlocked before the IEEE 802.15.3a task group that is seeking to define a physical-layer standard for wireless communications at rates of up to 480 Mbits/s over short ranges.
In the latest round of debate, a proponent of direct-sequence UWB asked if the orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) component of the MBOA proposal could make those implementing the proposal a potential target for Ottawa-based Wi-LAN's legal department. While the question referred to Redline Communications' patents, the patents actually belong to Wi-LAN.
However, according to a Wi-LAN spokesperson, it's not cut and dried. The company has already registered its patents for fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms with the 805.15.3a task group. "So if it develops into a mature technology, like 11a and g, and if our patents have not expired by that time, and if upon a more detailed review of the commercial products we believe that our patents apply, we would likely seek royalties on those products."
The filing against Cisco about which Cisco has yet to comment comes only weeks (May 27) after Wi-LAN announced it had won a settlement with Canada-based Redline Communications, a broadband wireless equipment provider.
Wi-LAN claimed that Redline's OFDM-based device infringed up its own wideband-OFDM (W-OFDM) patents, specifically Canadian patent number 2,064,975 and U.S. patent number 5,282,222.
According to Wi-LAN, it's patent portfolio also encompasses OFDM as it is implemented in the IEEE 802.11g and 802.11a wireless LAN standards and on those grounds it intends to pursue anyone making chips based on those standards.
The company has already won licensing agreements with Philips Semiconductor over its wireless LAN designs. It also has a licensing agreement with Fujitsu Microelectronics America, with which it partnered to develop WiMax-compliant equipment.
Other developers of WiMax chips will also have to deal with Wi-LAN, said Wi-LAN president and CEO Sayed-Amr El-Hamamsy, including Intel. Wi-LAN has always claimed that WiMax which is based on 802.16 uses the same flavor of 256-carrier OFDM as those covered by its patents. The company also recently acquired patents that it says pertain to the media access control layer.
"We've examined their claims and found nothing,"" said Mo Shakouri, vice president of the WiMax Forum and assistant vice president of business development at Alvarion.
"They may have been able to bully smaller companies without the financial resources to fight them," said Shakouri, referring to Redline Communications. "But when they go up with the big guys [such as Intel] they're going to get killed. They're only damaging themselves; they should focus on building equipment and working better within the WiMax group."
WiLAN's El-Hamamsy reaffirmed the patent claim and said that the company would be looking for royalties of between 3 and 5 percent of the cost of every WiMax ASIC.
"Our ideal scenario is to have broadband wireless OFDM everywhere, so we will not act in a manner that would inhibit the proliferation of the technology," said the spokesperson. However, "We will typically target large semiconductor companies for established technologies, like 802.11a and g, and seek reasonable royalties on the chip sets, rather than the end-products."