PCTEL Sues Rivals Over Modem Patent

Modem manufacturing company PCTEL is taking a broader swing at its competition in the form of a patent lawsuit.

The Chicago-based company filed claims last Friday against Agere Systems , Broadcom , Lucent Technologies and U.S. Robotics saying the competition is using its copyrighted technology, in particular V.90 (56 KBPS) modems.

The suit, filed in the Northern District of California, mirrors one that was filed back in March 2003 against 3Com , which previously owned part of U.S. Robotics.

None of the companies named in the suit that replied for a request to be interviewed said they would comment on the case.

According to published reports, PCTEL could recoup about $400 million from the combined suits.

“We enter litigation reluctantly, but with an absolute conviction that our claims are justified and that we are entitled to substantial compensation,” PCTEL chairman and CEO Marty Singer said in a statement.

Over the past 12 months, the PCTEL has shifted away from modem production and focused more on wireless products, in particular, Wi-Fi software, software defined radios and wireless test and measurement tools. The company says its WLAN software products (Segue product line) help simplify installation, roaming, Internet access and billing. In the last 12 months the company acquired both a software company and a wireless test and measurement company as 56K modems become antiquated technology.

Recently, PCTEL sold off its analog soft modem and DSP-based modem product lines to Conexant Systems . As part of that deal, Conexant gave PCTEL ownership of approximately 50 modem related patents. A spokesperson with Conexant declined to say if the company would get involved with the patent lawsuits.

This is not the first time that PCTEL has enforced its fundamental modem patents through litigation. In late 2001, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) validated several of those patents in an infringement dispute with two other parties. As a result of that litigation, both of those companies took a license under PCTEL’s modem patents.

PCTEL said its intellectual property is all that remains of the company’s investment in modem technology and products.

“As has been our practice, we attempted to resolve these matters without recourse to the courts’, however, experience has convinced us that litigation offers the most effective path to a meaningful resolution,” Singer said.

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