Via Licensing is starting a group that aims to make it easier for companies to license patents related to 802.11: Via Licensing has formed similar groups for standards such as MPEG. The topic of patents in the Wi-Fi industry has taken center stage recently. Agere and Proxim have filed lawsuits against other companies for making 802.11 gear that they say infringes on their intellectual property. More recently, Nomadix and Calypso have received patents for functions in 802.11 networks and they say they'll pursue infringers, though we haven't heard of any action yet.
The idea behind a licensing group is to offer a one stop shop where a vendor can go to pay for all patents related to 802.11 gear as they develop their products. But key to such a group is including members that have the important patents. Via Licensing hasn't revealed how many companies or which companies have expressed interest in the group.
Retaining intellectual property is important but if these companies start trying to gouge each other with royalties it'll increase the price of products and stall the market. Then nobody will make any money. One of the reasons Wi-Fi has been so successful is that the equipment has gotten so cheap (an exec I spoke with yesterday said he saw an ad in the newspaper last weekend for a Wi-Fi card for $6.99, after rebates). I suppose that's a double-edged sword because while it means that more customers buy products it also means vendors see tighter margins. All the talk about patents recently may be an attempt by vendors to capitalize as best they can on a growing market.