Sprint/Clearwire Slapped with WiMax Patent Challenge

Texas-based converged wireless platform developer Adaptix claims in infringement lawsuit Sprint and Clearwire are violating six WiMax-related patents owned by Adaptix. The lawsuit is seeking an injunction, legal fees and unspecified damages from Sprint and Clearwire, which recently merged their 4G WiMax operations in hopes of rolling out a nationwide WiMax network.

Adaptix, a developer of converged wireless service platforms, is suing Sprint and Clearwire for allegedly infringing Adaptix's WiMax-related patents. Adaptix is seeking unspecified damages, payment of legal fees and a permanent injunction blocking Sprint and Clearwire from further infringing on its patents, according to the Dec. 1 lawsuit.

The infringement lawsuit was filed on the same day Clearwire and Sprint Nextel formally closed their $14.5 billion merger deal to combine the two carriers' 4G wireless Internet businesses into a nationwide WiMax network. The deal also includes a combined $3.2 billion investment by Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.

Adaptix claims Sprint and Clearwire are infringing on six patents granted to Adaptix, which further claims the infringement has been "willful and deliberate."

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, "Clearwire Corp., Clearwire Legacy, and Sprint each has infringed and/or continues to infringe [patents owned by Adaptix] by offering WiMax services to customers in compliance with the 802.16 and 802.16e WiMax standards, and by making, using and/or selling the supporting WiMax network used to provide such WiMax services."

The filing adds the infringements "will continue to damage Adaptix's business, causing irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law, unless it is enjoined by this court."

WiMax's 4G technology allows for the delivery of last-mile wireless broadband access. WiMax promises faster download speeds than current cellular networks and has the potential to be a competitor to fixed-line broadband such as DSL. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and other mobile carriers have committed to a 4G technology known as LTE.

Since staking out a claim on WiMax as its technology of the future two years ago only to have a tentative deal with Clearwire fall apart, Sprint revived its WiMax bet in May with the merger announcement.

To complete the merger, Sprint Nextel turned over its entire 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings and its WiMax-related assets, including its Xohm division, to Clearwire, an investment valued at $7.4 billion. The Clearwire investment is valued at approximately $3.9 billion. The deal cleared FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulatory approval in November.

Sprint and Clearwire hope their combined wireless spectrum will allow the new Clearwire to achieve greater coverage, cost and operational efficiencies, and bandwidth-utilization than either company could by operating alone. The new Clearwire is targeting a network deployment that will cover between 120 million and 140 million people in the United States by the end of 2010. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in October it would ultimately cost $3 billion to $5 billion to build out the network.