A research foundation backed by the state of Washington has sued three of the world’s biggest consumer electronics makers over claims that they have infringed a series of patents surrounding the Bluetooth short-range wireless technology.

The suit, filed in Federal court in Seattle, claims that Matsushita, Samsung and Nokia should have sought a licence before using the technology in cellphones, headsets and other electronic equipment.

The Washington Research Foundation, which said it was acting on behalf of the University of Washington, owner of the patents in dispute, said it had already secured a licence over the technology from Broadcom, one of the biggest makers of communications chips, that would cover any consumer electronics that employ Bluetooth chipsets made by Broadcom.

However, it said that the three companies had all sold devices based on chipsets made by British-based CSR, which had not been licensed.

CSR shares fell sharply on Wednesday in reaction to the news. By midday they were trading at 635½p, down 23½p or 3.6 per cent.

Samsung on Wednesday declined to comment, while Matsushita could not be reached.

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