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Sprint, Clearwire Sued Over WiMax Patents

A wireless software and service provider claims the companies are infringing on six patents, and a lawsuit could eventually halt the nationwide WiMax network rollout.
Sprint Nextel and Clearwire's goal to deploy a nationwide WiMax network may have hit a bump in the road as they face a patent lawsuit from base station vendor Adaptix.

In a filing this month with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Adaptix said Sprint and Clearwire are infringing upon six patents related to WiMax technology. The company said it wants unspecified damages, payment of legal fees, as well as an injunction that would stop Sprint and Clearwire from infringing on the patents.

The company said 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 the court." Representatives from Sprint and Clearwire have not responded to press inquiries and haven't responded to the patent lawsuit yet.

The lawsuit could be the latest hurdle for Sprint, which has been trying to get a nationwide WiMax network rolled out for years. The plan faltered for years but was kicked into high gear earlier this year when Sprint invested in a new Clearwire company to deploy a nationwide 4G network. Comcast, Google, Intel, and Time Warner have also pledged to invest $3.2 billion in the WiMax company.

The rollout saw a few more delays, but WiMax service is live in Baltimore and a network is scheduled to go live in Portland, Ore., next month. Sprint has even introduced a modem that can switch between WiMax and Sprint's CDMA mobile data network.

But a permanent injunction could be disastrous for Sprint, as WiMax is rushing to gain traction before Long Term Evolution hits the market. LTE is a potentially faster 4G mobile broadband technology that has the backing of most major wireless carriers around the world. But WiMax has a head start of at least a year before LTE networks gets deployed, and this lawsuit could potentially derail that advantage.