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Wi-Fi Patent Victory Earns CSIRO $200 Million 267

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
bennyboy64 writes "iTnews reports the patent battle between Australia's CSIRO and 14 of the world's largest technology companies has gained the research organization $200 million from out of court settlements. CSIRO executive director of commercial, Nigel Poole, said the CSIRO were wanting to license their technology further, stating that he 'urged' companies using it to come forward and seek a license. 'We believe that there are many more companies that are using CSIRO's technology and it's our desire to license the technology further,' Poole said.'We would urge companies that are currently selling devices that have 802.11 a,g or n to contact CSIRO and to seek a license because we believe they are using our technology.'"
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Wi-Fi Patent Victory Earns CSIRO $200 Million

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  • by some_guy_88 (1306769) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:15AM (#29753565) Homepage

    Don't forget that CSIRO are a research organisation like PARC to pick an example in the USA.

    Nobody likes a patent troll but I'd rather see CSIRO win a case like this than say Microsoft or IBM.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:59AM (#29753785) Homepage Journal

    The nicest example I have heard of patents working the right way is the Rolling Loop IMAX Projector [in70mm.com]. The IMAX developers actually went to Ron Jones's home in Western Australia, looked at his prototype projector and pretty much bought his patent on the spot.

  • by jipn4 (1367823) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @01:33AM (#29753953)

    They are nothing alike. PARC is a private, corporate research lab. CSIRO is a public, government funded organization.

  • can you explain? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jipn4 (1367823) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @01:36AM (#29753957)

    I'm not so sure. It's not my area, but this patent sounds like it might be an engineering solution, a simple application of known techniques, instead of an invention. The fact that a standards body decided to use this technology (either not knowing about the patent or deliberately ignoring it) also suggests that this is not actually a new technology.

    Can you explain what you think is novel and unobvious about this technology?

  • Re:Only fair (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrMr (219533) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @02:48AM (#29754271)
    Interesting viewpoint. How much does Oz contribute to DARPA for the use of internet?
    Or to England for Penicillin?
    Or for any of the thousands of inventions funded by non-Australian citizens?
    But that would actually cost money, so that cannot possibly be fair.
  • Re:can you explain? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SlashWombat (1227578) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @02:51AM (#29754283)
    At the time of its invention, it was not a simple application of known techniques. Now many digital transmission schemes use similar techniques. So yes, they deserve some credit for the invention. (The reason it wasn't mainstream before this is due to them using a CSIRO FFT hardware chip, something that wasn't really around until chip manufacturers/designers achieved the miniaturization necessary for its implementation. The FFT wasn't even described as a mathematical process until early 1960.
  • Re:Only fair (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Starayo (989319) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @03:12AM (#29754387) Homepage
    HAHA, oh man, that's fantastic.

    1995 - Jindalee Radar System - The United States of America spent $11 billion developing stealth aircraft that could not be detected by radar. Scientists at the CSIRO concluded that if the plane could not be detected, perhaps the turbulence it makes passing through air could be. $1.5 million later, the Jindalee Radar system had transformed the stealth bomber into nothing more than an unusual looking aircraft.

  • Re:Only fair (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @04:15AM (#29754667)
    I came across a proposed way of doing just that some years ago: http://www.slate.com/id/68674/ [slate.com]
    Basically, every time a patent is granted, an auction is performed over the patent*. Now, 9 times out of ten, the government pays the one who applied for the patent the winning bid*, and the patent is released into public domain. 1 time out of ten, the highest bidder pays, and gets the monopoly. So, the one who applied to the patent gets what the market thinks it is worth. He can bid in the auction himself, and have a chance of getting the monopoly. Plus, capital investment is not necessary to get paid for having a good idea.

    * To make sure the one who applied for the patent doesn't bid the auction up, it is made as a third-bid-auction, i.e. the one who bid the highest wins, but pays the third-highest bid. That way, you need 3 entities in cahoot to throw the auction (but the details is in the article I linked to). Oh, and the third bid is of course lower then the first, but that lower price is offset by the bidders bidding a bit higher than they would have in a first-bid or second-bid auction.
  • Re:can you explain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:35AM (#29754953) Homepage

    Yeah, I'd say that simultaneous patent applications are a serious problem, and patent law doesn't really deal with research efforts where obvious areas of research are looked at by multiple individuals.

    It isn't really "simultaneous patents" which are the problem - you shouldn't *have* to patent your invention to avoid getting sued by someone who invented and patented theirs at the same time.

    In fact, it isn't even "simultaneous" inventions which are the problem - it's simply the fact that you shouldn't be expected to pay another inventor just because you happen to come up with the same thing independently. If you invent something and then 10 years later I invent the same thing with no knowledge of your invention then I shouldn't be expected to pay you, since the existence of your invention hasn't helped me in any way, and I would still have come up with it even without your work.

    For popular "whole products", such as the telephone, the vacuum cleaner, etc. it might be unlikely that someone wouldn't have knowledge of the existing invention, but patents are frequently taken out for innovative designs of minor components within a product, for which there should be no expectation of people knowing about them. Not to mention all the really trivial stuff that gets patented. It has got to the point where, for many patents, developing something is actually less time consuming than searching for a suitable patent to see if someone already developed it (with no guarantee that you'll find anything, so may have to expend the time developing it anyway). And many legal departments will tell people that they must not actively search for existing patents since that can land you in deeper hot water than if you just went ahead and unknowingly infringed a patent.

  • by ReneeJade (1649107) <reneejadew@gmail.com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:44AM (#29754997)
    I'm not for letting patents mess around with science and technology, but they do have their place. A lot of members of Internet communities seem to damn patents and copyrighting because it is so harmful to software engineering. And yes, I DO think that copyrighting and closed-source development have no place in software engineering, because keeping that kind of work hushed up does not benefit the science. But as an Australian studying both physics and software engineering I feel that there is a big difference between propriety software that has everyone on the Internet outraged and the licensing of technology. I feel that the CSIRO are an organisation that Australia can be proud of and some of their research will benefit human kind long after any patents have expired. If I end up working for the CSIRO I would want my work to be licensed. Not for the money or because it would be my "right", but because it would help with the continuation of excellent scientific research in Australia and Earth as a whole. If, however, I end up working as a programmer, I would rather give my code away and go hungry than have it all hushed up for the sake of a money hungry corporation, because transparency in software is beneficial to the science. That is not to say that software shouldn't be licensable or sellable, just that it should be visible - as the CSIRO's technologies often are. So before you all start squabbling over who should pay an extra five bucks for a wiFi card, think about what you're buying for the future. Outrage over copyrighting that stunts progress is fair, outrage over investing a few dollars into the advancement of technology is petty.
  • Re:Only fair (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @05:51AM (#29755035)

    Actually, the discovery that penicillin could be adapted to use as medicine was ALSO made by an Australian (Howard Florey)!

    In any case, there is presently a kind of hegemony of patents almost entirely within the USA, with enormous resulting economic flows from most other countries to US companies, amounting to many billions.

    This is one of a very few patents of current economic significance in IT outside the US that has been supported by the US courts - and if you've examined the patent it's far more a true invention than most of the patents discussed on slashdot.

  • Re:can you explain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:07AM (#29755113) Homepage Journal

    If you invent something and then 10 years later I invent the same thing with no knowledge of your invention then I shouldn't be expected to pay you

    Since it's impossible to:
      a) travel back in time,
      b) read minds,
      c) prove a negative,

    such a system would be completely unworkable.

  • Re:can you explain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:30AM (#29755589) Homepage

    Of course, proving independent invention is next to impossible

    I'm guessing this is a big part of why they don't honor independent simultaneous invention. It means that if you had a mole in a competitor's development space, they could secretly feed you enough data that you can reproduce the invention cycle on your own with only a slight delay.

    Disregarding the inability to authenticate independent invention; if two inventors did have a patent on the same invention, then licensing becomes a bidding war for which inventor will offer a lower licensing cost. One of the main purposes of a patent is to allow an inventor to recover the cost of research & development; now these inventors would instead be in a position where they were trying to minimize loss.

  • Re:can you explain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:11AM (#29756001) Homepage

    I'm guessing this is a big part of why they don't honor independent simultaneous invention. It means that if you had a mole in a competitor's development space, they could secretly feed you enough data that you can reproduce the invention cycle on your own with only a slight delay.

    It works both ways - the mole could provide enough information for the competitor to actually get ahead and file a patent before the company that did most of the work. There are plenty of cases where this has happened.

    Disregarding the inability to authenticate independent invention; if two inventors did have a patent on the same invention, then licensing becomes a bidding war for which inventor will offer a lower licensing cost. One of the main purposes of a patent is to allow an inventor to recover the cost of research & development; now these inventors would instead be in a position where they were trying to minimize loss.

    With the existing "single inventor" model, one of the inventors basically gets to charge whatever they like (even to the point of making it prohibitively expensive to licence, so that they can keep the invention for just their own products, keeping competition out of the end-user market as well), whilst the other inventor makes *nothing*, or worse - the other inventor gets sued.

    I think the "multiple inventors" model would work better, whereby you take a risk and if it doesn't pay off everyone gets to minimise their losses, as opposed to the "single inventor" model whereby you take a risk and if it doesn't pay off you're utterly screwed.

  • Re:Only fair (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ufoolme (1111815) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:51AM (#29756543)

    It developed a very nice wifi solution, in something like 6months and they did it as pure research. Do you need more legitimacy ?
    The money they've (imho) rightly got will go back into pure research. To develop idea and theories now, that will be hopefully as useful as wifi. You don't want useful things?
    As an Australian citizen don't you think I want my research organisation to be given its due?
    Everyone had access to there results as they published it, I can only find an 18page patent "Wireless LAN John D. O'Sullivan et al". I'd hazard a guess there has been a dozen more journal articles as well, just like any other important research - that was publicly funded.

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