Ruckus Kicks Up a Fuss Over Wi-Fi

If Ruckus Wireless wins a recently filed lawsuit against Netgear, the Wi-Fi tech developer might want to send a thank-you note to the Patent and Trademark Office. Ruckus sued Netgear and another wireless network developer, Rayspan, in federal court this week, claiming that Netgear infringed on two of its patents. The PTO issued Ruckus one of those patents last year; the second patent was issued just three weeks ago.

Ruckus says in a legal filing that both patents hold innovative technologies that helped make Ruckus “the success that it is today.” If the federal court finds that Netgear and Rayspan infringed on either one, the court could halt sales of a new Netgear wireless router. So the issuance of the second patent could really help Ruckus in court, the same way a second big gun could help a warrior on the battlefield.

Did the issuance of the second patent persuade Ruckus to take Netgear to court? Not according to one of Ruckus’ lawyers, Colby Springer. The timing was “pure coincidence,” he said. It just “happened to issue at a very convenient time.” Springer said he’s seen patents issued in as short as nine months and as long as seven years. This one took just under two years.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Ruckus is betting its smart Wi-Fi technology will deliver reliable signal quality over an extended range while automatically adapting to environmental changes in real time. With a more predictable Wi-Fi signal, the technology would support applications like streaming voice and multicast Internet Protocol video. In the suit, Ruckus says its distributors and resellers have shipped over half a million Wi-Fi systems to date.

Pursuant to a license agreement, Netgear has paid Ruckus royalties on sales of its WPN 824 line of RangeMax wireless routers. Ruckus claims it’s received royalties on nearly 2 million routers. Late last year, Ruckus discovered in an FCC filing that Netgear was developing a new RangeMax router.

In February, Ruckus’ president and CEO Selina Lo met with Netgear’s chairman and CEO, Patrick Lo, to discuss the new model. According to the suit, Netgear informed Ruckus it had begun selling the newest model in place of the ones that generated royalties for Ruckus. Netgear also indicated it would discontinue the manufacture and sale of its earlier RangeMax models by end of 2008, and Ruckus would not receive any licensing royalty revenue from sales of latest model.

Ruckus is seeking injunctions barring Netgear and Rayspan from infringing on its patents. It’s also seeking a “reasonable royalty” for existing patent infringements and other monetary damages.