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Nokia BH-200 Bluetooth Headset
Lawsuit would restrict the sale of Bluetooth devices in the United States

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 vigorously."

Another company untouched by the lawsuit is US-based Broadcom. Broadcom had the foresight to license the radio technology in question.

"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.





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