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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 15:06 GMT
Legal fight over Bluetooth chips
Image of man in a car using a Bluetooth headset
Bluetooth is being used in millions of gadgets
A legal row has blown up over the Bluetooth short-range radio system.

A US research institution has filed lawsuits against Matsushita, Samsung and Nokia over what it claims is "unlicenced" use of the technology.

Since it was developed in the 1990s Bluetooth has been used in millions of handsets, computers and laptops to swap data over short distances.

The lawsuits seek damages and an injunction to stop the three companies selling gadgets that use Bluetooth.

The legal action was started by the Washington Research Foundation which commercialises and defends the fruits of research carried out at institutions in Washington State.

The Foundation claims it owns a patent on the Bluetooth technology used in devices sold by Samsung, Nokia and Matsushita (more usually known as Panasonic). The WRF bases its claim on work carried out by former University of Washington scientist Edwin Suominen.

It said it had resorted to legal action following attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with the three companies.

US chip-maker Broadcom is known to have bought a licence to use the Washington-developed radio technology.

The chips used by the three companies named in the legal action were made by British firm Cambridge Silicon Radio. However, CSR is not named in the lawsuit which only covers devices sold or used in the US.

In a statement CSR said the lawsuit had "no merit" and that it would defend its products "vigorously".

Analysts said the legal row was unlikely to affect consumers.

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