Canadian Firm Sues 22, Claims it Owns Wi-Fi Tech

A Canadian technology licensing company called Wi-Lan Inc. launched an assault today on no fewer than 22 companies, including both equipment vendors and consumer electronics retailers. The claim isn't new - patent infringement - but the strategy is certainly unique.

Each of the company's three infringement suits deal with individual patents, two of which were actually invented by the co-founders of the company, dealing with Wi-Fi/OFDM and multicode applications.

In a conference call today, Wi-Lan said its strategy in this case is to apply pressure to various points on the sales chain, focusing on the equipment vendors who use infringing chips, and pressuring retailers to carry only compliant merchandise rather than go after the chip vendors themselves.

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"Our primary focus will be on the equipment vendor," said Wi-Lan President and CEO Jim Skippen, "and we'll let them sort out who pays the royalty. But we think the proper way for damages to be assessed is a royalty on, say, the laptop."

Wi-Lan holds over 220 patents relating to CDMA, DSL, DOCSIS, V-Chip, Wi-Fi, and WiMAX.

The suit will begin in the IP capital of America, Marshall, Texas. In all, the following defendants were named: Acer, Apple, Atheros Communications, Belkin, Best Buy, Buffalo Technology, Broadcom, Circuit City, Dell, D-Link, Gateway Inc, Hewlett-Packard, Infineon Technologies, Intel, Lenovo Group, Mervell Semiconductor, Netgear, Sony, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Westell Technologies, and 2wire Inc. Wi-Lan chose Marshall, the company said, because it is typically seen as a fast jurisdiction in patent cases.

Chipmakers were included in the suits, the company said, only as a preventative measure.

"Say for argument's sake we just sued the laptop guys in Texas, then it seems to be the strategy of the chip guys to then file a declatory judgment action in California or wherever, and force us to litigate all over the place. So we wanted to prevent that, and force everyone into Texas." Skippen remarked.

Though it sounds, with all the parties involved, like a massive undertaking, litigation appears to be a common step in Wi-LAN's intellectual property licensing procedure. Written in the company's "Licensing Program" on its Web site is the passage: "Like most lawsuits, well over 90% of patent litigation cases never proceed to trial because the parties agree to conclude a settlement agreement."

Perhaps part of this 90%-plus settlement rate has to do with whom Wi-Lan focuses upon. "We want to bring maximum pressure upon the concerned parties to enter into settlements." Skippen said.

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