On August 11, 2021, Bell Northern Research (BNR), a distant descendant of Bell Labs, filed another patent infringement case against Apple, citing various features relating to basic mobile wireless technology.

BNR has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. Bell-Northern Research was a telecommunications research and development corporation established in 1971 by the amalgamation of Bell Canada and Northern Electric’s R&D departments.

When Nortel Networks changed its name from Northern Telecom in the mid-1990s, BNR was taken into the corporation. The corporation has a long history in the telecommunications industry, which is described in its formal court case.

BNR’s origins can be traced back to the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, a subsidiary of the Bell System that produced telephones and other equipment based on Western Electric designs. Northern Electric was formed in 1895 after the manufacturing business was broken off from Western Electric. The company then cut ties with Western Electric and began developing its ideas in Canadian research centres. Northern Electric and Bell Canada later integrated their research and development organizations, resulting in BNR.

According to the complaint, Apple’s unauthorized and unlicensed use of the BNR patents in its wireless products. The technologies claimed in the BNR Patents support many of Apple’s core functionalities, including cellular, wi-fi, and battery preservation, not to mention the health of Apple’s customers.

BNR’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, asserting claims from ten patents against Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and associated wireless products.

Highlights of BNR’s Patents infringing claims:

US8204554B2: This is invention is directed to a mobile station, comprising a display, a proximity sensor, and a microprocessor. The microprocessor adapted to:

(a) determine, without using the proximity sensor, the existence of a second condition independent and different from the first condition, the second condition is that a user of the mobile station has performed an action to initiate an outgoing call or to answer an incoming call;

(b) in response to a determination in step (a) that the second condition exists, activate the proximity sensor;

(c) receive the signal from the activated proximity sensor; and

(d) reduce power to the display if the signal from the activated proximity sensor indicates that the first condition exists.

US7319889B2: This invention is directed towards a mobile station, comprising a display, a proximity; and a microprocessor. The microprocessor adapted to:

(a) determine whether a telephone call is active;

(b) receive the signal from the proximity sensor; and

(c) reduce power to the display if (i) the microprocessor determines that a telephone call is active and (ii) the signal indicates the proximity of the external object; wherein:

the telephone call is a wireless telephone call;

the microprocessor reduces power to the display while the signal indicates the proximity of the external object only if the microprocessor determines that the wireless telephone call is active; and

the proximity sensor begins detecting whether an external object is proximate substantially concurrently with the mobile station initiating an outgoing wireless telephone call or receiving an incoming wireless telephone call.

US8416862B2: This invention is directed to a method for feeding back transmitter beamforming information from a receiving wireless communication device to a transmitting wireless communication device, the method comprising:

the receiving wireless communication device receiving a preamble sequence from the transmitting wireless device;

the receiving wireless device estimating a channel response based upon the preamble sequence;

the receiving wireless device determining an estimated transmitter beamforming unitary matrix (V) based upon the channel response and a receiver beamforming unitary matrix (U);

the receiving wireless device decomposing the estimated transmitter beamforming unitary matrix (V) to produce the transmitter beamforming information; and

the receiving wireless device wirelessly sending the transmitter beamforming information to the transmitting wireless device.

US7957450B2: This disclosure relates to a method for communication, the method comprising:

computing a plurality of channel estimate matrices based on signals received by a mobile terminal from a base station, via one or more downlink RF channels, wherein said plurality of channel estimate matrices comprise coefficients derived from performing a singular value matrix decomposition (SVD) on said received signals; and

transmitting said coefficients as feedback information to said base station, via one or more uplink RF channels.

US7564914B2: This invention relates to a method for communicating information in a communication system, the method comprising:

transmitting data via a plurality of radio frequency (RF) channels utilizing a plurality of transmitting antennas;

receiving feedback information via at least one of said plurality of RF channels;

modifying a transmission mode based on said feedback information;

receiving said feedback information comprising channel estimates based on transmission characteristics of said transmitted data via at least one of said plurality of transmitting antennas; and

deriving said feedback information from mathematical matrix decomposition of said channel estimates.

US6963129B1: This disclosure relates to a heat spreader assembly, comprising:

a single, unibody heat spreader configured to extend across substantially the entire first surface of at least two spaced integrated circuits opposite a second surface of the integrated circuits having a bonding pad;

adhesive placed between the heat spreader and the first surface for securing the heat spreader to the first surface of the integrated circuits at a spaced distance above at least one passive device arranged in the area between the spaced integrated circuits; and

a second heat spreader interposed between the heat spreader and only of the at least two spaced integrated circuits.

US6858930B2: The invention relates to a multi chip package, comprising:

a package substrate having a first side and an opposing second side, the first side for receiving package electrical connections,

integrated circuits each having a first side and an opposing second side, the first side of each of the integrated circuits electrically connected and structurally connected to the second side of the package substrate,

heat spreaders each having a first side and an opposing second side, the first side of each of the heat spreaders disposed adjacent the second side of the integrated circuits, where one each of the heat spreaders is associated with one each of the integrated circuits,

a single stiffener having a first side and an opposing second side, the stiffener covering all of the integrated circuits and heat spreaders, the first side of the stiffener disposed adjacent the second side of the heat spreaders, and

discrete components electrically connected to the second side of the package substrate and coplanar with the integrated circuits.

US7039435B2: This invention relates to a portable cell phone, comprising:

a power circuit and a proximity regulation system. The proximity regulation system, including:

a location sensing subsystem that determines a location of said portable cell phone proximate a user; and

a power governing subsystem, coupled to said location sensing subsystem, that determines a proximity transmit power level of said portable cell phone based on said location and determines a transmit power level for said portable cell phone based on said network adjusted transmit power level and said proximity transmit power level.

The patents-in-suit cover power-saving approaches, MIMO beamforming, semiconductor packaging, chip packages with heat spreaders, and general cellular communications technology.

US8396072B2: The present disclosure relates to an apparatus for use in controlling congestion in a cell of a communications network, the apparatus comprising:

at least one controller and a memory storing a computer program which are configured to:

receive and read a series of blocks on a first channel;

determine whether there is congestion based on whether said series of blocks comprises a flag indicating that there is congestion, wherein the flag is in at least one of an IMMEDIATE ASSIGNMENT message or an IMMEDIATE ASSIGNMENT REJECT message; and

in the event that the determination is that there is no congestion, initiate an access procedure by transmitting a channel request on a second channel.

Re-issue US7990842B2: This invention relates to a wireless communications device, comprising:

a signal generator that generates an extended long training sequence; and

an Inverse Fourier Transformer operatively coupled to the signal generator,

wherein the Inverse Fourier Transformer processes the extended long training sequence from the signal generator and provides an optimal extended long training sequence with a minimal peak-to-average ratio, and

wherein at least the optimal extended long training sequence is carried by a greater number of subcarriers than a standard wireless networking configuration for an Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing scheme.

The ‘554’ and ‘889 patents, for example, are directed at the iPhone’s proximity sensor, which is used to dim or turn off the device’s screen when it gets close to a user’s face. The ‘862 property is being used against Apple products that conduct beamforming or beam steering operations following the 802.11ac standard, among other things.

Apple is allegedly infringing on the following nine patents that BNR has acquired by assignment from Agere Systems, Broadcom Corp., LSI Logic, and Renesas Mobile Corp. Only one of the ten patents is a genuine BNR original.

8,204,554: “System and method for conserving battery power in a mobile station” (Agere Systems Inc)

7,319,889: “System and method for conserving battery power in a mobile station” (Agere Systems Inc )

RE 48,629: “Backward-compatible long training sequences for wireless communication networks” (Bell Northern Research)

8,416,862: “Efficient feedback of channel information in a closed-loop beamforming wireless communication system” (Broadcom Corp)

7,957,450: “Method and system for frame formats for MIMO channel measurement exchange” (Broadcom Corp)

7,564,914: “Method and system for frame formats for MIMO channel measurement exchange” (Broadcom Corp)

6,963,129: “Multi-chip package having a contiguous heat spreader assembly” (LSI Logic)

6,858,930: “Multi-chip module” (LSI Logic Corp)

7,039,435: “Proximity regulation system for use with a portable cell phone and a method of operation thereof” (Agere Systems Inc)

8,396,072: “Method and apparatus for channel traffic congestion avoidance in a mobile communication system” (Renesas Mobile Corp, Tokyo, JP)

BNR’s patent litigation has been a long and winding road. Importantly, BNR is distinct from Bell Labs, a division of the Bell System that pioneered telecommunications and established the foundation for today’s interconnected world.

Several offshoot companies were left intact when Bell was broken up in 1982. Among the offshoots were Lucent and its subsidiary Agere Systems. LSI acquired Agere in 2007, and Nokia acquired lucent in 2016. Avago then bought LSI, which bought Broadcom and changed its name to Broadcom, Inc. BNR was acquired by Nortel amid this upheaval.

According to the lawsuit, former employees of Bell Labs, Northern Electric, and Nortel “decided to reenergize BNR” in 2017, which in practice meant turning the company into a patent holdings company that leveraged intellectual property developed by Lucent Technologies, Agere, LSI, Avago, and Broadcom.

BNR claims four patents from Broadcom, three from Agere, two from LSI, and one from Japanese chipmaker Renesas in its lawsuit against Apple.

In June 2018 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, BNR alerted the company to probable violation of its intellectual property. The iPhone X, iPad Pro, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac Pro were all infringing instruments in that letter.

BNR is seeking an injunction against infringing items, reasonable compensation to compensate BNR for Apple’s infringement of BNR patents and judicial prejudice and post-litigation interest at the maximum permitted by law, any other compensation in law or equity.

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Authors

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    Abhishek is an intellectual property Attorney. He specializes in the registration and maintenance of patents, designs, trademarks, and copyrights. He regularly assists companies in relation to crucial technology issues. He also helps organizations or individuals to develop patent portfolio management strategies for exciting new inventions and processes. Abhishek has past work experience with reputed firms like SaiKrishna and Associates Advocates, L.S. Davar and Co., Masilamani Law Partners, and Ripple IP Services (NCR).

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    Madhura is an intellectual property professional. She also assists in article writing, editing, and proofreading for companies, businesses, start-ups and individuals. Madhura has extensive experience in Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Biochemistry, and Biostatistics. She has graduated from the Department of Microbiology, Savitribai Phule Pune University – one of the premier institutes in the country for studying Life Sciences. She has completed various courses related to I.P. Law from different universities worldwide.