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September 4, 1997updated 01 Sep 2016 5:24pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Just one week before the International Telecommunications Union standards meeting to develop a 56Kbps modem standard 3Com Corp has spelt out that it believes it has exclusive ownership of the core technology likely to be at the heart of the standard. According to 3Com, which obtained the rights to a key element of 56Kbps design when it acquired US Robotics Inc earlier this year, once the standard has been agreed it will license all patents relating to the anticipated 56 Kbps modem standard at a one-time $100,000 fee, or alternatively, with a running royalty capped at $150,000 per manufacturer. The company says that by outlining its policy for licensing standards-related patents it hopes to speed up the standards process. But the announcement is a clear warning to the Semiconductor Systems Inc and Lucent Technologies, responsible for the rival 56Kbps technology K56Flex. USR bought exclusive rights in 1996 from 56K pioneer Brent Townshend, a consulting professor at Stanford University, who was responsible, according to 3Com, for the fundamental concept to enable these modems. Townshend’s patents, which are still pending approval by the US Patent and Trade Office, cover the method by which information uses faster digital networking between the server – such as the internet service provider – and the client, and slower analog networking from client to server. USR says it paid millions of dollars for the exclusive license to Townshend’s patents on the condition that it could then sub- license these to the rest of the industry. Townshend’s own royalty for the technology, once the patents are passed, is $1.25 for each 56 Kbps modem sold and $9 for each head-end port. 3Com says it is unprecedented for a manufacturer with intellectual property to reveal its licensing charges before a standard is agreed, but it says it is laying all its cards on the table in order to facilitate discussions. Modem makers are due to discuss the issue at an International Telecommunications Union meeting next week, at which they hope to agree a proposed standard. However, a spokesperson for Rockwell, which along with partner Lucent Technologies Inc formed the opposing K56Flex technology, maintains that the company does not believe Townshend’s patents have anything fundamental to the K56Flex architecture. The company questions why, when the standards issue has been discussed for a year now, 3Com has only just mentioned the Townshend patents. If they were that important, she said, why hadn’t the company informed the standards committees about them? Also, the Townshend patents have not even been granted yet, whereas Lucent has patents issued which pre-date Townshend’s application. 3Com says it has spent a long time looking at the technology surrounding these modems, and is convinced Townshend’s technology will form a fundamental part of the standard. It acknowledges the Lucent patents may also form a part of the standard, and said it is waiting for other manufacturers to also publish their licensing fees. If next week’s meeting fails to come up with a standard, the next meeting is not due before January.

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