Bluetooth: Out of Range?

Bluetooth, the protocol for connecting nearby devices wirelessly, is at the heart of — what else? — a patent infringement case, and some of the industry’s biggest names may be headed to court.

The Washington Research Foundation is suing Nokia, Samsung and Matsushita over their alleged use of non-licensed Bluetooth chips. The group, which holds certain patents related to Bluetooth chipsets, filed a complaint in Federal Court in the Western District of Washington alleging infringement by the companies.

The dispute centers around chips manufactured by CSR. For its part, CSR is disputing the allegations. Another chip company, Broadcom, is a WSR licensee.

Bluetooth was invented by Ericsson, which later made the technology open source. The WSR patents are the work of a former engineering student, Ed Suominen, who later gave the rights to the patents to University of Washington. WSR is a foundation set up to manage patents granted to UW.

It’s too early to tell how this will end up, but Bluetooth is still emerging, and hurdles like these don’t help in getting the technology established.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow