Analog Devices, Townshend settle 56K modem lawsuit

FRAMINGHAM (12/02/2003) - The inventor of 56K modems has settled a suit against Analog Devices Inc. for allegedly using his technology without a license, but a similar suit against four other modem makers continues.

Brent Townshend, who holds five patents on 56K bit/sec modem technology, says suits against Agere Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., ESS Technology Inc. and Intel Corp. continue, with a trial date set for next July.

Townshend claims these companies make modems that use his intellectual property and don't pay him for it. The going rate is US$0.44 per PC hardware modem and $0.22 for software modems, Townshend says. It is double that for server modems. When he started licensing the technology in 1999, the rate was $1.25 for a PC modem and $2.50 for a server modem, but he has agreed to a declining scale.

He filed a similar suit against Analog Devices, but the company recently settled for an undisclosed amount to pay for its use of the technology in past years and an agreed to pay a license fee going forward.

Townshend's technology enables 56K bit/sec downloads from the Internet over analog phone connections, a speed achievable only in the download direction because it involves no noisy analog-to-digital conversions on the line that slow the possible modem speed. Digital-to-analog conversions create less noise, and that is the only type of conversion necessary from an ISP using digital modems at their points of presence.

Townshend says patent law allows suing makers, users and sellers of patented technology who do not pay license fees, and so far he has sued just makers. But a court injunction blocking sale and use of unlicensed modems could block supply chains used by corporations, he says.

Sales of 56K bit/sec modems are estimated at more than 100 million modems per year, which would yield Townshend $22 million if all those modems were software PC modems.

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