Nokia, Panasonic and Samsung are facing a new lawsuit from a
U.S.-based research institute over their use of Bluetooth technology in mobile
phones. The Washington Research Foundation claims that the three companies infringe
on a patent filed in 1999 for a "simplified high-frequency broadband
tuner and tuning method."
The Bluetooth standard was developed by engineers at
Ericsson and was eventually rolled into the Bluetooth Special Interest Group
(SIG). The first version of the freely available wireless standard was made
available in 1998 -- a year before the patent in question was filed.
Patent number 6,427,068
was filed on May 24, 1999 and issued on July 30, 2002. The patent in general
covers the transmitting and receiving of RF signals without the inherent
disadvantages of using discrete-time processing (high DSP performance
requirements and related costs) and direct conversion (1/f noise, phase and
amplitude errors). The patent goes on to describe the use of quadrature mixing
with the help of a coarse-tuned local oscillator to produce approximate digital
I and Q signals.
The patent dispute would directly affect all Bluetooth
devices sold within the United States. That means that the red-hot
Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone market in the United States, which currently
accounts for 15-20% of global sales, will see the biggest impact.
British-based chip maker CSL was not named in the suit even
though the company currently holds over half of the global market for Bluetooth
chips. CSL, which does not directly sell chips in the United States, stated
that "CSR has taken advice from its attorneys. The suit is without merit
in relation to CSR's Bluetooth chips, and CSR will defend its products
Another company untouched by the lawsuit is US-based
Broadcom. Broadcom had the foresight to license the radio technology in
"The document is positive news for Broadcom, but
negative for CSR. These two are the main global players in the Bluetooth chip
market," said Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston.
Products featuring Bluetooth technology have been adopted
rather slowly in the United States, but globally the technology has blossomed.
The Bluetooth SIG announced in November of last year that the number of
Bluetooth devices shipped globally have topped
the 1 billion mark.