As anticipated, proponents of 802.11n have something to cheer about. The Wi-Fi Alliance announced that 95 products have been certified for 802.11n Draft 2.0. The product mix is from some 28 vendors which is pretty impressive considering the testing program began just three months ago.
Big name chip vendors including Atheros, Intel, and Marvell are in the fray, as well as heavyweights Apple, Cisco, HP, Sony, and Toshiba to name a few.
The Register, a flamboyant UK tech web rag, is the flash point of the latest rumors reported that “…a significant threat to the standard from patents held by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Despite requests from the IEEE, CSIRO has failed to promise not to sue anyone for infringement.”
As with any IEEE standard, if any technology incorporated into the standard has any patents, they must be waived by the respective patent holders. Naturally, the various engineers and companies that contribute to the IEEE try to avoid such conflicts in the first place or get a “Letter of Assurance” not to sue from any patent holders.
Not specified by the “exclusive” Register news what the patent actually covers. A cursory search of the CISRO web site down under did not reveal any ongoing patent issues with the IEEE. Wi-Fi Planet reported back in 2005 that the patent in question relates to OFDM.
CISRO is certainly not alone in patents pertaining to technologies employed by 802.11n. In fact, the aforementioned article states that “The IEEE lists 23 companies with patents related to 802.11n. According to the U.S. Patent Office, there are 634 U.S. patent applications and 255 patents granted regarding MIMO.” More specifically, the article notes that “Of particular interest is a Speedus Corp. patent similar to one definition of MIMO. U.S. Patent 5,949,793 includes a method "relating to simultaneous transmission of digital and analog signals in the same band."
Have all patent concerns been addressed by 802.11n? Is CISRO unique as the last hold out for a Letter of Assurance to the IEEE? I doubt it. I do believe however, that all parties will come to terms – eventually.