For all the talk of how WiFi and WiMax are these wonderful open wireless standards, it seems the may have a bit of a patent problem. Last month, I wrote about the potential patent troubles for WiMax, after Wi-LAN, a company that claims to own patents on core technical issues related to WiMax convinced a WiMax equipment maker to pay up, rather than go through a costly legal battle. Now, realizing that WiMax is still a bit far away, someone has realized that their patents can apply to WiFi as well -- an established market where companies may be willing to quickly pay up to get Wi-LAN off their backs. That seems to be about the only explanation for Wi-LAN's decision to sue Cisco, along with all sorts of evil patent overlord quotes like: "It is our intent to collect, either directly or through component manufacturers, royalties from any company selling 802.11a, 802.11g, or WiMax-certified equipment." It should be clear by now that these sorts of patent battles do more to slow down innovation than to enhance it. I explore that idea more thoroughly in my latest writeup for TheFeature about WiFi's new patent problem. What it means right now, however, is that there are going to be a string of legal battles, and WiFi equipment will likely get more expensive.
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