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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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  • hypocrisy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MasterOfUniverse (812371) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @12:53AM (#12563562)
    First, let me start by saying that the patent system is pretty stupid. However, its pretty hypocrit of US companies to fight a patent that does not fit them. These companies would not even think for a minute to sue someone else over a patent they own. But when someone uses it against them then they cry foul.
  • by hawado (762018) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @12:55AM (#12563588) Homepage
    So it seems that if you have lots of money and you find a patent held by someone that infringes on your ability to rape for money, you just take them to court to null the patent.
    The companies listed I am sure all have patents that are just as far reaching or broad,(didn't sony just apply for a patent for a method of transfering information directly to your brain), which I am sure could be contested in the same way.
    I guess the only difference is that Joe Nobody doesn't have the cash or the political/economic connections that these companies have.
    if they win, what will the precidence be for the rest of us as to the legality or coverage of US patents? Could this be the loophole many have been looking for to get all those wide reaching, stupid patents we all hate and read about, dismissed?
  • Re:hypocrisy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sik0fewl (561285) <xxdigitalhellxxNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:02AM (#12563628) Homepage

    I think it's great how the system works. Large corporations with large patent portfolios can squeeze money out of, or totally bankrupt, small businesses that can't afford to license patents from the Big Guys. Also, if the Big Guys ever run into a patent they don't like, they can just get together and try to break the patent so that they can use the technology for free!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:09AM (#12563670)
    Interestingly, although the CSIRO is not a multinational company, the force behind it is larger than a multinational - it is a government. If the Australian government is worried about this cash cow it will defend it. And it's bigger than Microsoft, Dell et al.
  • by not-quite-rite (232445) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:09AM (#12563671) Homepage Journal
    I read this and couldn't help but laugh out loud.

    6 very large, very well backed AMERICAN companies, are going to take an AUSTRALIAN government backed RESEARCH ORGANISATION in an IP battle.

    Right after the free trade agreement was struck, that is meant to bring our IP laws into line with the US?

    I hope CSIRO doesn't back down. Stick it to the companies. The same companies that would use those laws to screw anyone else, who infringes on their IP.

    C'mon AUSSIE C'mon!

  • Re:Wow.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Craigj0 (10745) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:13AM (#12563698)
    I think the opposite is true they should patent so that all of the citezens can use the patented tech for free. Charge the other countries companies after all we the people paid for it.
  • Re:hypocrisy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:29AM (#12563769) Homepage Journal
    " However, its pretty hypocrit of US companies to fight a patent that does not fit them."

    What you call hypocritical, I call totally expected behavior.
  • Have to say that... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darnok (650458) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @01:36AM (#12563786)
    if I had such a patent in my pocket, I'd licence it out on terms that said I could renegotiate any licence if and when my "client" decided to sue me for anything whatsoever.

    In other words, you can licence it from me for $4 per unit sold. Complain about the patent; if you lose, it becomes $8 per unit. Complain about anything else, and it becomes $12 per unit. Still want to complain, or am I now your newest bestest buddy...?

    Almost seems like common sense, which IP law in general is lacking across the board.
  • by ErichTheWebGuy (745925) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @02:00AM (#12563872) Homepage
    As an American, I have to agree with you. These assholes constantly stick it to people with their patent portfolios, now they are tired of paying crazy royalties (the same royalties they all charge others, by the way), so they are gonna try to launch some lame-ass legal battle to try to steal some technology that (apparently) is rightfully owned by CSIRO?

    That's complete bullshit. I also hope that CSIRO does not back down, and that the companies effectively end up paying $12 per chip, to reimburse CSIRO for its legal costs. I am quite sure that at that point a more sane company will step up with consumer WLAN technology who is happy to pay $4 per chip. I am also quite sure that unless they back the fuck off, I won't buy products from the companies mentioned in TFA anymore.
  • Re:SCrew the CSIRO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _merlin (160982) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @02:35AM (#12563997) Homepage Journal
    I don't mind not having a government grant. I can get commercial funding. What I do object to is the govenment pumping money into the CSIRO when all they can produce for their efforts is a 2x2 static MIMO demo when we can produce a fully working 4x4 MIMO transmitter and receiver, and then going on about how brilliant their research is.

    You see, the problem is, the CSIRO is fat on government grants, so they don't have to work hard to survive. The rest of us have to fight for commercial funding by doing great research and making stuff that works and is truly ready for commercialisation.

    My previous post was a bit of a troll. The CSIRO does do some great work, it's just that most of it isn't in my area.

    The thing about stealing ideas is a bit personal. Their wideband channel sounder is pretty much a carbon copy of something they saw on a tour of our institution. We were talking about our ideas, and they were saying that their approach was so much better, then next month they've got something that's a copy of ours.
  • Re:Wow.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anarchitect_in_oz (771448) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @02:52AM (#12564043)
    It shouldn't in much the same way that...
    Tech paid for by Australian tax payers shouldn't be free to Australian Corps

    or
    Tech paid for by US tax payer shouldn't be free to US Corps.

    Raises the question how much tech is paid for by donation and gov. funding(i.e. the public) is tied up in private hands?
  • As an Aussie (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Admiral Trigger Happ (807561) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @02:57AM (#12564061) Homepage
    First I need to state that I am an Aussie, and I fully support what the CSIRO stands for The CSIRO has a right to their patent, unlike NASA they can make money from their inventions, and hence are able to increase their budget without out the bill being footed by the TAX payer. I can only say to to those unhappy about the patent, the US government agreed to the FTA (Unfortunately so did our governement against what many of us wanted) and hence US companies and individuals are now bound by the patent, which was pointed out previously has been around since 1993. If you don't like it, complain to your government and get the FTA rewritten. And to that idiot who made some slightly homourous comment about invading out wonderful country, your troops woudln't know what hit them, Just look at the War games results, and the success rate of our troops.
  • Re:From the patent: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @03:24AM (#12564140)
    Apparently, this *is* the organization who invented OFDM for the military.
  • Re:Wow.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by insert_username_here (844281) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @03:42AM (#12564201)

    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. The Federal Government has been reducing funding for the CSIRO (not to mention Universities - nowadays, most unis get most of their funding from overseas full-fee paying students, making it harder for ordinary Australian students out of high school to get a uni place - but that's another rant) since it got into power. Meanwhile, we all get tax cuts (but you only get the big ones if you earn over $70,000 a year)! Yay!

    Ethically, I believe patents are wrong (how can someone own an idea???), but given the funding cuts, I'm not surprised the CSIRO has resorted to finding funding from other sources.

  • by thelamecamel (561865) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @03:44AM (#12564212)
    The CSIRO (or ANU, can't remember) developed SYNROC, a safe material in which to store nuclear waste all the way back in 1978. It has been ignored by the US, because Australia has a patent on it. I spose companies decided that unlike public safety, wireless networking couldn't wait till the patent expired...
  • Re:hypocrisy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jotham (89116) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @03:55AM (#12564252)
    Hopefully they'll do too go a job with their case and expose a nice big hole in the US patent system itself (or atleast set a good precedent for others to follow).

    They picked a strong enough opponent for it. The CSIRO is very well established and respected in Australia, being involved in all kinds of useful industry research, from this to better milk pasturisation, so I'd say the patent has the details to back itself up. And since the CSIRO doesn't produce any products of its own, its immune from attack by the enormous patent libraries these companies own (the usual tatic).

    I'm not sure how they'll proceed but it'll be an interesting one to watch play out...
  • by ultracool (883965) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @04:24AM (#12564332)
    Here in New Zealand, the US tried to get NZ to overturn it's "no nuclear" policy, and as a "reward", we would have a free trade agreement with the US (the US wants to park it's nuclear powered submarines in our waters). The US got a polite "fuck off". Pretty much every economist and politician here seems to agree that a FTA with the states is a very bad idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:38AM (#12564524)
    Reform is only going to happen if patents become more of a bother than a boon to the microsofts and lucent's of this world.

    Everytime a patent screws the big guys is to be applauded, everytime it screws the little guy it is to be deplored. There is nothing inconsistent about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @06:05AM (#12564591)
    The real reason why it was possible that these major players got together was this:

    They all do some kind of "I can use these patents of yours, you can use these patents of mine" with each other.

    Here comes CSIRO. Not interested in such thing, as it is of no use for them, CSIRO declined.

    My enemy's enemy is my friend. Let's show this kid what happens, if he doesn't want to play along.

    Had CSIRO agreed to some patent exchange, we would have never heared the claim that this patent is not valid. If this patent is valid or not did not matter for the formation of this opposition group.

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