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U.S. Firms Take on Australia's CSIRO Over Patents 426

Posted by timothy
from the hey-we-want-those dept.
dingram17 writes "ABC News is reporting that six U.S. computer companies (Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft and Netgear) are taking legal action to try to break a U.S. patent that the CSIRO holds on wireless networking. The CSIRO has patents on OFDM technology, as used in 802.11a and 802.11g. It has been alleged that the CSIRO demands $4 per chipset for the use of this technology. It appears that the patent in question is U.S. Patent 5,487,069 'Wireless LAN.' From a quick look, this appears to be a wide ranging patent."
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U.S. Firms Take on Australia's CSIRO Over Patents

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  • Re:A little help? (Score:5, Informative)

    by danpat (119101) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @12:54AM (#12563573) Homepage
    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

    Kind-of a catch-all government sponsored department for scientific research.

    See http://www.csiro.au/ [csiro.au]
  • by pbjones (315127) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:02AM (#12563630)
    As an Aussie Taxpayer I am only too happy to see US companies having to fight for technology. CSIRO will loose in the end, but it is so nice to see a fight. Stick your FTA up your FBA
  • Re:A little help? (Score:3, Informative)

    by KeyboardMonkey (744594) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:04AM (#12563639)
    CSIRO is an applied science research organisation where part of the money is provided by the Australian government, and part of the money is provided by business.

    There is a strong focus on making practical discoveries for use in industry.
  • by Goonie (8651) <robert@merkel.benambra@org> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:06AM (#12563656) Homepage
    There's another one that's far, far broader, and the people enforcing it are far, far greedier. There's an Australian company which owns the patent for any use of non-coding DNA [abc.net.au], and are shaking down medical research labs doing pure science for royalties.

    I think that there should be a blanket patent exemption for pure research, though I'm not quite sure how one should define the exemption.

  • Re:Wow.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by shitdrummer (523404) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:17AM (#12563706)
    A government entity should never be allowed to patent its own tech, that tech was paid for by the people and should be available freely to all in every scenario I can possibly think of.

    Profits from CSIRO patents are reinvested into research. This in turn lowers the required government funding thus saving Aussie taxpayers quite a bit of money.

    By the way, the CSIRO is highly respected by a lot of Australians.

    Shitdrummer
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:19AM (#12563721)
    Um... the patent in question is not an Australian patent. It's a US patent. What was your point again?

    It's true that the US patent system has major problems. It is not true that the US patent system is biased in favor of patent challengers. It is profoundly biased in favor of patent holders. So "this sort of crap", um, was... from patent challengers. Do you even understand what's going on?

    As to patent systems: given the problems with the Australian patent system, you know the old saying about people living in glass houses...

  • From the patent: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:31AM (#12563773)
    This Patent is not broad as in "vague and meaningless" - rather, it contains many specific claims, and thus only affects certain technologies.

    The "Background of the Invention" section is written in plain English instead of Patentese, and includes the following:

    (If it sounds dated, well, the application was filed on the 23rd of November, 1993)

    "Accordingly, the need arises for a LAN to which such portable devices can be connected by means of a wireless or radio link.

    Such wireless LANs are known, however, hitherto they have been substantially restricted to low data transmission rates. In order to achieve widespread commercial acceptability, it is necessary to have a relatively high transmission rate and therefore transmit on a relatively high frequency, of the order of 1 GHz or higher. As will be explained hereafter, radio transmission at such high frequencies encounters a collection of unique problems.

    One wireless LAN which is commercially available is that sold by Motorola under the trade name ALTAIR. This system operates at approximately 18 GHz, however, the maximum data transmission rate is limited to approximately 3-6 Mbit/s. A useful review of this system and the problems of wireless reception at these frequencies and in "office" environments is contained in "Radio Propagation and Anti-multipath Techniques in the WIN Environment", James E. Mitzlaff IEEE Network Magazine November 1991 pp. 21-26.

    This engineering designer concludes that the inadequate performance, and the large size, expense and power consumption of the hardware needed to adaptively equalize even a 10 Mbit/s data signal are such that the problems of multipath propagation cannot thereby be overcome in Wireless In-Building Network (WIN) systems. Similarly, spread spectrum techniques which might also be used to combat multipath problems consume too much bandwidth (300 MHz for 10 Mbits/s) to be effective. A data rate of 100 Mbit/s utilizing this technology would therefore consume 3 GHz of bandwidth.

    Instead, the solution adopted by Motorola and Mitzlaff is a directional antenna system with 6 beams for each antenna resulting in 36 possible transmission paths to be periodically checked by the system processor in order to locate the "best quality" path and "switch" the antennae accordingly. This procedure adds substantial bulk and cost to the system. This procedure is essentially the conversion of a multipath transmission problem into a single path transmission environment by the use of directional antennae.

    OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

    The object of the present invention is to provide a wireless LAN in a confined multipath transmission environment having a high bit rate even through the reciprocal of the data or information bit rate (the data "period") is short relative to the time delay differences between significant transmission paths. ....

    Preferably, transmission is enhanced by the use of one or more of the following techniques, namely interactive channel sounding, forward error correction with redundancy sufficient for non-interactive correction, modulation with redundancy sufficient for interactive error correction by re-transmission of at least selected data, and the choice of allocation of data between sub-channels.

    The radio transmission is also preferably divided into small packets of data each of which is transmitted over a time period in which the transmission characteristics over the predetermined range are relatively constant.

    The encoding of the data is preferably carried out on an ensemble of carriers each costituting a sub-channel and having a different frequency with the modulation of each individual carrier preferably being multi-level modulation of carrier amplitude and/or phase (mQAM).
  • by danpat (119101) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:54AM (#12563856) Homepage
    Actually, in this case you're wrong. The CSIRO is essentially a not-for-profit. There are no shares, you can't invest in them, they don't turn a profit.

    All the income they make from patents they hold is used to further research, which *does* benefit us. Sure, we're paying for that, but we're not paying to simply generate profit, we're paying for inventions.

    In fact, if they recieved no government funding at all, and totally relied on their inventions, patents and licence revenues, market forces would give us a pretty good idea of the actual value of new ideas (and whether it's a sustainable venture).
  • Re:Wow.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @02:33AM (#12563989)
    Despite the assertion that CSIRO is a government entity the great majority of its funding comes from industry. This began in the 70's and what was once a fine publicly-funded body of pure researchers has been turned into a pack of applied researchers beholden to industry funding. If the facts surrounding this patent prove correct, these guys have earned the money. Hopefully a successful defence of this patent (should that ever come about) might let an Aussie company that was daring enough to invest in R&D get a return.
  • Re:Wow.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by shitdrummer (523404) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @04:04AM (#12564275)
    By the way, the CSIRO is highly respected by a lot of Australians.

    That wouldn't explain why it's funding is being cut so drastically



    **** NEWSFLASH **** NEWSFLASH **** NEWSFLASH ***

    The Earth revolves around the sun...
    Pigs don't fly...
    and...
    THE AUSTRALIAN HOWARD GOVERNMENT IS FUCKED!

    More in the late news.

    Shitdrummer
  • by CrackedButter (646746) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:33AM (#12564512) Homepage Journal


    Sending a man to the moon is not an invention my backwards american friend. Plus Star Trek is not real and even they never explored all the planets during any of their episodes unless you count the Voyager episode where Paris does warp 10 and occupies all points in the universe at the same time, even so, that was a fictional invention.


    The lightbulb was invented by an Sir Joseph Wilson Swan AND Thomas Eddison at the same time in their respective countries.


    Nikola Tesla invented AC power, a Serbian.


    The rest I can concede, but there is enough there to show that the US didn't invent half the shit you listed. So you are either trying to bullshit us or you didn't know better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:54AM (#12564570)
    Is there really a point in comparing the current government to past governments and saying that hey, at least they're not as bad as in the past? The point is, the current government is screwed up, no matter how much better or worse they are than previous governments. They're certainly far from perfect...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @06:00AM (#12564580)
    Internet: [nope]
    Tim Berners-Lee is credited with having created the World Wide Web while he was a researcher at the European High-Energy Particle Physics lab, the Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN), in Geneva, Switzerland. A tool was needed to enable collaboration between physicists and other researchers in the high energy physics community.

    There's always internet / gopher / the WWW. I think most people these days see the worldwideweb as the internet. That's not american. If memory serves me TCP/IP might have been MIT (MIT did email first, right?)

    Sent Man to Moon: [nope]
    That's not an invention. Nor is sending them to Mars, Pluto, Iraq or any other place. It's an accomplishment though.

    Atomic Bomb: [nope]
    On August 2, 1939, just before the beginning of World War II, Albert Einstein wrote to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Einstein and several other scientists told Roosevelt of efforts in Nazi Germany to purify uranium-235, which could be used to build an atomic bomb. It was shortly thereafter that the United States Government began the serious undertaking known then only as "The Manhattan Project."

    December 1938 - Two German scientists, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, demonstrate nuclear fission. I guess the Germans didn't by random motion started to purify uranium-235. America was the first one to fabricate a bomb, and use it. Einstein by the way, is a german, not an american.

    Hydrogen Bomb: [nope]
    Edward Teller invented that thing. Moved out of europe cause of the war.
    Edward Teller was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1908, Dr. Teller received his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Leipzig in Germany. Although his early training was in chemical physics and spectroscopy, Edward Teller has made substantial contributions to such diverse fields as nuclear physics, plasma physics, astrophysics, and statistical mechanics.

    Have explored all the planets: [nope]
    There's billions of planets out there. Never happened. If you ment sent sattelites flying past the planets in our solar system, then you have a remote chance of being right.. can't find the data on the internet, but at least russia, europe and japan send out space probes as well.

    I'm getting tired..

    The Computer GUI: [right]
    AC: see other post: [wrong]
    Electric lightbulb: [wrong] - patented by Philips, netherlands.
    Motion pictures: [wrong]
    The next step was to use sequence photography to create moving pictures, and the first successful device for sequence photography was Eadweard Muybridge, who took 12 photographs of the horse 'Abe Edgington' in 1878 and demonstrated how this represented a mere half second of motion. His Zoopraxiscope device of 1879 can be seen in the Kingston Museum, Surrey, UK.

    Inspired by Muybridge's work, the Frenchman Etienne-Jules Marey analysed high-speed motion and throughout the early 1890s, helped by developments such as sensitized paper superseding glass plates and general improvements in the equipment available, produced chronophotographic sequence cameras and demonstrated the principles which formed the basis of the cinematography.

    So, you're wrong. you can't help it though, it was your education that is flawed.
  • by igb (28052) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @06:28AM (#12564643)
    Internet? Arguable: packet switching was
    done by a team at NPL Teddington.

    Man to Moon? Take Von Braun out and it's
    a different story.

    A Bomb? Frisch and Peierls at Birmingham
    and later Liverpool did a lot of the
    theoretical work, and Birmingham Chemistry
    Dept did the UF6 gas diffusion method. The
    Tube Alloys project might have produced a
    viable device, although America certainly
    contributed the engineering and exploitation
    technologies.

    H Bomb I don't know enough about.

    Most of the rest arose in several places at about
    the same time, emerging from well-established
    science.

    ian
  • Re:As an Aussie (Score:4, Informative)

    by TDRighteo (712858) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:03AM (#12564917)
    Ah, like the NRA says [abc.net.au].

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics begs [abs.gov.au] to differ [abs.gov.au] on the supposed "rapidly rising crime rate".

  • Re:Wow.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by masklinn (823351) <slashdot.org@PER ... .net minus punct> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:04AM (#12566728)
    The computer was actually also german.
    Last time I checked, Charles Babbage was an englishman, and if you need electronics then it's english (again) with the Colossus Mark 1 in December 1943 (Konrad Zuse's Z3 was technically a full fledged programmable computer too, but mechanical by 1941)
  • Are you kidding? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tony (765) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:31AM (#12566997) Journal
    Uhm... those weren't buzzwords. Those are technical jargon. They proposed a system for multipath mitigation, in a time when a lot of research was being done in exactly that area.

    (Multi-pathing is the tendency of a radio wave of a given frequency to reflect or refract such that the different paths arrive at an antenna at slightly different times, interfering with each other. In an office setting, with lots of objects, this is a real problem.)

    Several then-current techniques were mentioned, including spread-spectrum (which mitigates multipathing at the expense of more power spread over a broader range of frequencies), and directional antenna, which makes for a more expensive system.

    Their coding techniques were ingenious at the time. It's a good, solid patent. I don't like the patent system, but if you gotta have patents, they should be more like this, and a lot less like gene patents, or math patents, or playing with a cat using a laser pointer, or pushing a kid on a swing "underdog"-- all patents which exist.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:34PM (#12572795)
    Do all these companies really want to screw around with what is likely to be their biggest customer in Australia ?
    It isn't going to matter, there is a fair degree of anti-intellecutalism in Australian politics as shown by books and newpaper articles over the last couple of years that actually tried to make the word "elite" an insult.

    CSIRO is not respected much at all, and usually gets cut back more with each budget - most Australian innovations have to be sold overseas before anyone local will consider investing in them.

    Also, it's early days of the Australia-US free trade deal, so a CSIRO patent will not be worth considering rocking the boat with. The other factor is that it can be considered within the realm of foreign affairs, and the minister for that deparment is in the position due to past acheivements of his grandfather, and can not be considered competant (as a distraction for being caught out in a lie to cover incompetance this week he actually said that previous Australian governments run by another party were associated with Nazis! It ended up on the front page of every major newspaper!).

    To sum up - CSIRO is on it's own, the government doesn't care, it's only technology after all and we can buy that from China as far as they are concearned. The minor party in the coalitition (which has farmers as it's main constituancy) do recognise the value of CSIRO but don't have much say in things, and the opposition party doesn't care much one way or the other.

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