Saturday, July 10, 2021

Bluetooth-related patent lawsuit calls into question Texas Instruments' prior decision not to buy a portfolio containing the patent-in-suit

Compared to cellular and WiFi patents, litigation over Bluetooth devices is relatively rare. But that's just one of two aspects that make Texas LFP v. Texas Instruments (a recently-filed patent infringement action in the Eastern District of Texas) stand out.

On LinkedIn, Tangible IP's Louis Carbeonneau--a patent broker--provided some interesting background on the case. His firm had "offered [a portfolio containing the patent-in-suit] to several chip companies, including all the alleged infringers, to no avail." As a result, the patent holder "turned to a well respected patent litigation firm that liked the portfolio and are now suing one of the alleged infringers": TI.

Mr. Carbonneau estimates that "[e]ven if the defendant ultimately succeeds [...], it will cost them much more than acquiring the portfolio in the first place, with none of the benefits of owning the patents..."

RPX Corporation reported on the case two days ago. Here's the complaint (this post continues below the document):

21-06-17 Texas LFP v. Texas... by Florian Mueller

It's clearly a hardware patent, with some claim limitations even describing the relative location of certain components, which is key to the minimization of interference between Bluetooth and other wireless data transmissions. Unless TI comes up with some very good explanations, a jury may well be persuaded by those teardowns showing a similar chip design.

What's unclear is whether the patent is so broad that companies like TI would not have a viable non-infringing option to support low-energy Bluetooth. Even if so, the history of the underlying invention makes it highly unlikely that a FRAND licensing pledge was made.

The fact that TI had knowledge of the patent because of Tangible IP trying to broker a transaction under which this patent (along with others) would have been assigned to TI could result in a damages enhancement, which Texas LFP is asking for.

The case has been assigned to Judge Rodney Gilstrap.

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