Wireless Seismic facing patent infringement suit

HOUSTON — Wireless Seismic, the Sugar Land-based company with investment from energy giants Total and Chesapeake, is facing a federal lawsuit alleging that it’s infringing on a rival firm’s patents.

On Tuesday, the company was featured in the Houston Chronicle. A day later, U.S. District Court Judge Keith P. Ellison signed an order scheduling a pretrial conference for Feb. 6.

Last year, Sugar Land-based Fairfield Industries, known as FairfieldNodal, field a lawsuit alleging that Wireless Seismic infringed on three of its patents, the earliest of which dates to 2006.

The debate stems largely around the technology Wireless Seismic uses to transfer small amounts of data from one wireless unit to another, known as a “bucket brigade,” which allows the seismic sensors to be networked together over a large area without draining their batteries.

Fairfield alleges its patents cover that technology and Wireless Seismic has willfully violated them. But in court filings, Wireless Seismic has denied any wrongdoing.

Wireless Seismic has said that while its competitor’s patent states the problem that it purports to solve — a way of sending short-range radio transmissions between wireless sensors without radio interference — it doesn’t offer a solution.

“All the … patent does is list parameters that can be adjusted to affect interference, but without any disclosure of how to adjust them and to what result,” Wireless Seismic wrote in a March court filing.

Fairfield also filed a patent infringement suit against Wireless Seismic and its Chinese distributor in China this week, the company announced in a news release Thursday.

Mick Lambert, chief executive of Wireless Seismic, said his company has filed its own petitions with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office challenging the validity of Fairfield’s patents. He said he expects the office to take action on those petitions in January or February.

Lambert said he expects a trial in the federal suit won’t occur for about a year.

Fairfield initially filed its suit in the the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. That court has a reputation for favoring plaintiffs in patent cases and has attracted a disproportionately large number of patent suits.

Wireless Seismic successfully got the case transferred to Houston’s U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.