Legal Issues

by Daniel DiPasquo

Filed Under:
patents, wireless

aruba, motorola, symbol

Aruba Launches Counter-Offensive To Patent Suit

from the i'll-show-you-mine dept

The latest chapter in the tech patent saga comes in the form of a lawsuit by Aruba Networks against Motorola subsidiaries Symbol Technologies and Wireless Valley Communications. Aruba's lawsuit is actually a counter-offensive to a lawsuit filed in August by Symbol and Wireless Valley that accuses Aruba of infringing upon several of their patents. The punch line of the counter-suit is the revelation that, in 2003, Aruba opened its robes to Symbol during due diligence for a potential acquisition. Now, after chewing for four years on what it learned about Aruba's system, Symbol suddenly claims that Aruba's technology has, since the beginning, infringed upon Symbol's patents.

In how many ways does this case illustrate some of the insanities of the patent system? For one, patents applied for by Symbol in February 2001 were not granted by USPTO until February 2007. While prudence in patent examination is expected, six years is a lifetime in technology years. Making the assumption that the technology in question is justifiably patentable, the USPTO clearly failed Symbol: its market share in WLAN hardware has dwindled in the intervening years while Aruba's has grown strongly. Checking that assumption, it's difficult to see how technology that was simultaneously developed by no fewer than four different companies (Symbol, Aruba, Airespace, Trapeze Networks) qualifies as novel, non-obvious, and therefore patentable. But it's the entire timeline that perhaps best illustrates the lunacy. In 2001 Symbol had an idea, and Aruba Networks didn't yet exist. By 2003, Aruba was delivering its product to customers but Symbol still hadn't made it to market and was kicking the tires at Aruba. Fast forward to 2007, Symbol's market share has fallen to third place and fading behind Aruba (even holding that position largely due to sales of legacy WLAN hardware, I suspect) and suddenly it discovers that all along Aruba has been infringing upon its "invention".

It's a sad but popular refrain made possible by the soft protectionism that is the current patent system.

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  • identicon
    Kilgore Trout, 24 Oct 2007 @ 1:34pm

    By show of hands

    How many people thought the headline referred to the vacation destination?

    *raises hand*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • Hand raised

    Hand raised. Good thing I actually read the posts. But the truth is the truth. The Patent Office is in dire need of upgrading the system. And the time-line you mention? That is funny and sad at the same time.

    Everybody is jumping on the "Patent Infringement Bandwagon" with no end in sight.

    Can you imagine how many applications are filed each year? They have never had the manpower needed to keep things flowing smoothly and probably never will.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vincent Clement, 24 Oct 2007 @ 3:26pm

    Don't patent examiners talk to each other?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ipzedge, 11 Nov 2007 @ 4:24pm

    wireless broadband in this present form

    is on it's way out a new tech is hitting the market first
    part of next year that will blow the doors of all
    wireless networks stay tuned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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