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The Courts Government Patents Wireless Networking News Hardware

Buffalo Tech Gets New Trial On Wi-Fi Patent 78

Posted by kdawson
from the oh-give-me-a-home-router dept.
MrLint writes "It's been a long, nearly two years of silence since CSIRO won a patent battle against Buffalo Tech, causing an injunction preventing the Austin company from selling wireless routers. On September 19, 2008, a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that CSIRO patent claims are invalid and Buffalo is getting a new trial. With any luck, we will be able to get our grubby hands on low-cost Wi-Fi routers again!"
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Buffalo Tech Gets New Trial On Wi-Fi Patent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:06PM (#25291159)

    One product Buffalo used to sell before this injunction were hard drives with a wireless interface on them, similar to Apple's Time Capsules. This was before Apple's product hit the market. I wondered why this company was barred from selling these while Apple was free to do so.

    I hope Buffalo wins this round.

  • Buffalo AirStation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:46PM (#25291625) Journal

    I own a Buffalo AirStation wireless ethernet converter. Best wireless device since the WiFi router.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:47PM (#25291639)

    You may want to check out the case pending in the Western District of Wisconsin where Fujitsu, LG and Philips have sued Netgear [justia.com] under the following 3 patents: 4975952 [google.com] (claims 1, 4 and 6), 6018642 [google.com] (claims 2, 6, and 8), and 6469993 [google.com] (claims 1, 2, 3, 6, 21, 25, and 26).

    Plaintiffs are using the stupid theory that the 802.11 standard infringes the patents therefore Netgear's products also infringe. The plaintiffs have accused more than 100 Netgear products.

    Netgear is the sole defendant in the case. Some details from Netgear's SEC filing [secinfo.com]:

    In December 2007, a lawsuit was filed against the Company by Fujitsu Limited, LG Electronics, Inc. and U.S. Philips Corporation in the U.S. District Court, Central District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs allege that the Company infringes U.S. Patent Nos. 6,018,642, 6,469,993 and 4,975,952. The plaintiffs accuse the Companyâ(TM)s wireless networking products compliant with the IEEE 802.11 standards of infringement. The Company filed its answer in the first quarter of 2008. This action is in the discovery phase. The District Court has scheduled an August 15, 2008 claim construction hearing and an April 27, 2009 jury trial.

    If you want to fight patent garbage, buy Netgear products.

  • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:11PM (#25291989) Homepage Journal
    You're right. This was hardly a big victory for Buffalo:

    On appeal, we affirm the district court's summary judgment rulings in all but one respect. With respect to the issue of validity, we uphold the court's entry of summary judgment that the '069 patent was not anticipated. We also uphold the district court's entry of summary judgment that the '069 patent was not invalid because of the addition of new matter to the application or because the asserted claims lacked a sufficient written description in the original specification. With respect to the issue of obviousness, however, we conclude that the district court erred by entering summary judgment against Buffalo because we hold that there was a disputed issue of material fact as to whether the prior art references that were before the district court were combinable in a manner that would have rendered the asserted claims of the '069 patent obvious. Although we vacate the summary judgment of obviousness, we have nonetheless addressed the issue of infringement, on which the district court entered summary judgment against Buffalo, because that issue will continue to be important to the ultimate disposition of the case unless the claims are held to be invalid for obviousness. As to that issue, we uphold the district court's summary judgment of infringement.

    The district court found (on summary judgment) that the patent was not anticipated, valid, not obvious, and infringed. Even for the E.D. Tex., that's a lot to hold on summary judgment, and usually indicates it's a pretty blatant case. The Fed. Cir. upheld all of those findings except obviousness. It did not hold (contrary to the summary) that the patent was invalid. It held that there was an issue of material fact as to obviousness that the district court would need to try to a fact finder. If the district court finds, on remand, that the patent is non-obvious, then Buffalo loses.

    I know there's a huge anti-patent sentiment around here, but patents are my bread and butter, and I tend to believe that there are such things as valid patents. I haven't looked at this patent specifically, but if somebody has a slam dunk argument for why the specific claims at issue are obvious, I'd honestly be interested to hear it. I hate obvious patent too---probably more than you, because I have to litigate against them, fighting the presumption that they're valid with lots of money on the line. But this sounds more like a case where a lot of people are upset that they couldn't get something they liked because it infringed a possibly-valid patent. That is really just the price we pay to have patents at all. Some of the people here will disagree with the whole concept(many will accompany their disagreement with vitriol and poor grammar). But I don't think that a trade secret-only world would be any better.

    So somebody tell me, what is obvious about this patent? I'd be interested to know.

  • by frostband (970712) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:14PM (#25292015) Homepage

    From my experience, I have set up a network with about 10 Belkin routers, they didn't have great range and the WDS on them was sometimes "shakey" (probably due to range/antenna issues perhaps). I was also having to restart some of these too often. I tried to put DD-WRT on some of them, and after bricking a few, it was time to move to something else.

    I then tried to switch over half of the network to Linksys ones, but they didn't do the WDS for some reason at all. I returned all of those.

    Now comes the Buffalo routers, I flashed all of them with DD-WRT and now I have a very stable network set up with about 12 (and growing!) WDS-connected routers. Most are Buffalos with DD-WRT and hopefully one day they all will be since you can do SNMP (sp?) monitoring on them.

    Bottomline: All the points the parent mentioned plus they have been very stable for me compared with others and they have had better range (whoops, that's one of his points).

    One of these days I'll set up a blog post or something detailing my network. This network is at a lodging facility on a lake where all the buildings are semi-sparsely located and it's actually a major selling point to a lot of guests looking for a place to vacation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:53PM (#25292539)

    "With any luck, we will be able to get our grubby hands on low-cost Wi-Fi routers again!"

    a completely valid patent (it's for a hardware implementation, and was non-obvious at the time) and /. hopes it's overturned. I'm happy to agree that software patents have no place in this world, and the patent system needs an overhaul, but this is ridiculous. you're a bunch of hypocrites, getting all worked up when china ignores US IP when to make cheap products, but then you turn around and do the exact same thing to the australians. lame

  • by reebmmm (939463) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:13PM (#25292829)

    All I have to say is "wow." That is both a crazy theory (so much for proving product to claim) and some totally irrelevant art. That 6469993 patent is really ugly. It looks like a literal translation of the original Korean application.

    I wish I had moderation points to get you out of Anonymous Coward hell.

    Go Netgear.

  • by femto (459605) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:52PM (#25293279) Homepage

    I just happened to be involved [jwdalton.com] in the university project that produced this patent. The patent was filed before I got involved, so I can't comment on the perceived obviousness at the time of filing (or any other aspect of the filing). From personal experience, in 1995 most people I spoke to about what I was doing didn't "get" it and questioned why anyone would bother doing such a thing. It's hard to tell how much of that was due to the technology being non-obvious, or how much was due to applications being non-obvious.

    It's interesting that there is only one name in common between the list of authors on the patent [uspto.gov] and the paper [sss-mag.com], and that person isn't the lead author on the paper. I guess that might be because the paper is about the second implementation. The first implementation, on which the patent is presumably based, was done in software in non-real time (burst mode). If judging obviousness, it would be worth comparing with the HiperLAN [wikipedia.org] project and the work that went into it.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:27PM (#25294135) Homepage Journal

    Not sure of your time frame, but just in case you still have it, maybe their website is better now:

    http://www.buffalotech.com/support/downloads/ [buffalotech.com]

    If it's a discontinued model:

    http://site2.buffalotech.com/support/downloads2.php [buffalotech.com]

    I assume that you're referring to XP SP2 - my buddies and I had a lot of various USB problems prior to that. Sorry if that's obvious beyond all recognition, just covering bases.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VorlonFog (948943) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @09:19PM (#25294497) Homepage Journal
    I've been reading this court document [uscourts.gov] describing the recent decision this evening. IANAL, but it seems Buffalo has presented entirely reasonable and valid evidence for prior art. Additionally, CSIRO's '069 patent as originally filed specified the 10 GHz frequency range while 802.11 A/B/G/N transmissions occur in the 2.5 and 5 GHz ranges. It seems CSIRO in 1995 amended/revised their patent to remove the very specific 10 GHz reference and instead cited the more general term 'radio frequencies'. They also added new claims specifically cited in the Buffalo case. I've only read the first 25 of 40 pages, but IMHO Buffalo has presented a strong case to be reviewed more carefully than any summary judgment ever oculd. In other words, it's not so much "they aren't paying the inventors for their work" or stealing Intellectual Property. It's more like, "Buffalo presented a case the court summarily ruled against, and CSIRO is trying to enforce a possibly invalid patent." Read the document, and make your own decision. Then come back and post some more.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:28AM (#25295875) Homepage Journal

    I only have 1 Buffalo router, a WHR-G54S, and it is mounted to a pole, outside [flickr.com] in the sun, rain, snow and ice (it is in Colorado, so that isn't a mutually exclusive list). It is fed a little bit too much voltage over 100' of sprinkler cable, in a telcom case. At this point it has been there for over a year.

    Current uptime: 123 days

    The only issues I ever have with the router is antenna misalignment from my other 19 dBi antennas being accidentally moved.

  • by HuguesT (84078) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:00AM (#25296365)

    Your ideas sound good but are probably unworkable. Independent re-invention does not prove obviousness, as it happens all the time even for very difficult subjects (e.g. in maths, physics, not just engineering). The first to invent should get the credit as in research.

    Your second point, I wholeheartedly agree with however. Patents are supposed to make something "patent", i.e. totally obvious to make with the knowledge of the patent. Some patents are like that but not all.

    The third point is the opposite of reality. CSIRO are the one who worked their butt off to make wireless communication more reliable, effective and efficient, but they are not a manufacturing entity, they are a government research agency. They patented their discoveries as they should have. Even if Buffalo or others certainly made contributions into the manufacturing process, the basic scientific principles of their device is based on CSIRO's invention.

    Nobody complains when IBM (say) patents a new silicon manufacturing process like SOI and makes wafer makes like Applied Materials pay licences. In effect the research arm of IBM makes billions a year from patent licences. People know that IBM has legal werewithals and don't think they can get away with cheating with IBM's inventions.

    Here I'm pretty sure the Dells, HPs, Netgears of this world knew they were infringing but thought "who is this CSIRO thing? an Aussie gov. body? come on, can they even patent things in the US? can they even prosecure?" and tried to cheat knowing full well that at worse they might be liable for some fees down the line and might be able to settle for cheap somewhere down the line. They probably thought it would be a nice way for their legal department to make them some money for a change.

    If patents like these are invalidated this is pretty much closing the lid on a whole body of strategies for applied research to fund itself through licences and commercial agreements. CSIRO is not a submarine patent shop. They employ around 6000 people and do very fine research in all areas of science. If they made a fine invention like it sounds they have, way in advance of everybody else, they should get a fine reward. This is the heart of the patent system.

    If this doesn't work then the patent system is not only ineffective, it is simply evil.
     

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