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Patents The Courts Wireless Networking

CSIRO Sues US Carriers Over Wi-Fi Patent 308

Posted by kdawson
from the milking-it dept.
An anonymous reader notes that CSIRO has sued Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in — wait for it — East Texas District Court. "Australia's peak science body stands to reap more than $1 billion from its lucrative Wi-Fi patent after already netting about $250 million from the world's biggest technology companies, an intellectual property lawyer says. The CSIRO has spent years battling 14 technology giants including Dell, HP, Microsoft, Intel, Nintendo, and Toshiba for royalties and made a major breakthrough in April last year when the companies opted to avoid a jury hearing and settle for an estimated $250 million. Now, the organization is bringing the fight to the top three US mobile carriers in a new suit targeting Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile. It argues they have been selling devices that infringe its patents."
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CSIRO Sues US Carriers Over Wi-Fi Patent

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  • by ignavus (213578) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:15PM (#32425496)

    The CSIRO is an independent government-owned technology research body - a bit like (say) NASA is in the US.

    The money isn't lining the pockets of some uber-squillionaire with a Lear jet, it will be funding a very worthwhile agency that can churn out even better research.

    Yeah, I would like it to be free too, but at least it is going to one of the more worthy technological causes.

  • What's a CSIRO? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Itninja (937614) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:21PM (#32425562) Homepage
    For those of us not nerdy enough to actually know what the crap CSIRO is:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Scientific_and_Industrial_Research_Organisation [wikipedia.org]
  • by batkiwi (137781) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:32PM (#32425674)

    But they're not a patent troll. They:
    -developed technology to fix an (at the time) unfixable problem using scientific research they'd be doing in signal analysis (funny enough related to astronomy!) for decades
    -signed agreements with everyone stating that royalties would be owed
    -asked for those agreements to be honored
    -got "the bird" from the companies implementing the technologies
    -asked for those agreements to be honored
    -got "the bird" from the companies implementing the technologies
    -asked for those agreements to be honored
    -got "the bird" from the companies implementing the technologies
    -asked for those agreements to be honored
    -got "the bird" from the companies implementing the technologies
    -sued

    In what way is that patent trolling?

    From the link you posted:
    "an entity that does not have the capabilities to design, manufacture, or distribute products that have features protected by the patent"

  • Re:For once... (Score:3, Informative)

    by nephilimsd (936642) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:35PM (#32425704)
    It's nice to see telecos reaping what they sowed, but in the end, consumers pay for everything. At some level, this will mostly harm end users.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @06:58PM (#32425902)

    CSIRO is responsible for research and development,

    the money from royalties is funneled back into research and development.

    CSIRO invests heavily in developing alternative fuel sources including Biodiesel and environmental protection weed erratication in australia, advices government of sustainable business practices and improve farming practices.

    most importantly the more money they take from greedy International companies
    the less they drain from Australian Taxpayers

    Increasing the price of WIFI instruments may add a bill to 30 million Australians, but this is far outwieghed by 5 billion people world wide which will now pay extra on WIFI devices and that money will make its way into Australia

  • by Quabbe (1308187) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:04PM (#32425944)
    It's 100% incorrect. Shrimp refers to the decapods we affectionately know as Prawns here in Australia. Crocodile Dundee (characterised by Paul Hogan) was an American selling the Australian image to Americans.
  • by victorhooi (830021) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:26PM (#32426114)

    heya,

    Mate, as an Australian, I have to say the CSIRO is one of the more respected bodies here. They're government funded (meaning we taxpayers fund them), but they are completely independent and they churn out some damn good research - sure, a lot of it's probably agriculture-oriented, but not all, as this shows.

    To accuse them of being a patent troll is patently (pun intended :p) ridiculous.

    Firstly, they're not a patent-house - they're a research institute, that does government-funded research. It'd be like accusing NASA, or DARPA, or say the NIH of being a patent troll. Here's a story of the NIH suing a pharmaceutical giant over missing royalties for an AIDS drug:

    http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v6/n12/full/nm1200_1302a.html [nature.com]

    I don't exactly see Slashdotters up in arms accusing the NIH of being a patent troll. Is this some kind of weird US-centric bias?

    Secondly, they happened to pick a place that favours people litigating on patents - what's the big deal? You'd expect them to pick a place that disfavoured patent holders? Please, why would they intentionally sabotage their case like that, it makes absolutely no sense at all - you can take your pick of any of the 50 US states, and you happen to pick one that doesn't like patent holders? Don't be silly. They obviously have lawyers with half a brain, and they happened to pick the right state. I think

    Cheers,
    Victor

  • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:34PM (#32426162)
    They're not patent trolls, they've been fighting to be compensated for nearly a decade and a half. Wireless wasn't really anywhere near as big back then as it is now. You act like they waited until it exploded before going gotcha, pay me my money.
  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:54PM (#32426280)

    The carriers are doing something with this technology and simply inventing it does not entitle CSIRO to an automatic right to be paid money, or worse to deny its use for the benefit of everyone.

    Perhaps you're not familiar with how patents work. That's exactly what they're there for.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @07:57PM (#32426304) Homepage

    To software developers, CSIRO is an aggressive patent litigator. The karma they earn through their agricultural research doesn't change this.

    Maybe we should always specify that "CSIRO's *software department*" acts like a patent troll, but given that the software context is pretty clear here, that doesn't seem necessary.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @08:34PM (#32426596)

    How about a law that prohibits these companies from passing on their "mistakes" to the consumers?

    How about you learn simple economics so you stop saying such idiotic tripe?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_incidence [wikipedia.org]

    That article is specifically about taxes, but the method applies to all deadweight losses. If lots of people stop buying because of a small price change, the business pays more. If few people stop (or even can stop), the consumer pays more. This is true no matter how a tax is levied, or how the deadweight loss manifests.

  • by harlequinn (909271) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @09:10PM (#32426878)

    I do believe this patent covers the hardware and software implemented in every 802.11 wireless device.

    According to this article the patent was granted in 1996 and the IEEE 802.11a standard was ratified three years later.

    http://www.csiro.au/news/CSIRO-honours-wireless-team.html [csiro.au]

    The only reason the previous lawsuit settled instead of going to a jury trial is because the coalition of companies being sued knew the gig was up. If they thought they were in the right and were using their own technology then they would have gone to trial and probably won. Instead they backed down since they weren't using their own technology.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @09:11PM (#32426884) Homepage

    Even if they don't develop, but only acquire a valid patent, how does suing for that make them a troll?

    That's the entire business model of Acacia [swpat.org] and Intellectual Ventures [swpat.org]. These are the quintessential patent trolls.

    Everyone calls them trolls. I'm not sure what your question is. Why "troll"? Well, I guess it's a cultural reference to a bad monster that lives under bridges and demands payment for crossing said bridge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @09:41PM (#32427116)

    https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/public-file/07/11-07-2619-00-0000-802-11-wg-chairs-received-email-letter-response-from-csiro-regarding-loa-requests.doc

    www.ieee802.org/CSIRO-Patent-Memo-19JUL2007.pdf

    here the CSIRO got sued first:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/Breaking/CSIRO-hit-with-wifi-patent-suit/2005/05/19/1116361656580.html

    http://www.zdnet.com.au/australian-government-defends-wireless-patent-139192549.htm

    and with a timeline here :
    http://www.builderau.com.au/news/soa/No-backdown-from-CSIRO-over-Wi-Fi-patents/0,339028227,339282521,00.htm

    Look, that's all I can be bothered to find now, but just google LOA, 802.11a,g,n CSIRO and the patent number in various combinations, and you'll find loads of crap.

    What's happened is that :
    1. CSIRO File and get a patent for WiFi
    2.CSIRO is willing to license under RAND. Everyone says fuck off.
    3. It sues Buffalo Tech and wins (this essentially upholds their claims)
    4.CSIRO is willing to license under RAND. Everyone says fuck off.
    5. CSIRO gets sued by MS, Intel, Netgear etc to overturn the patent.
    6. They fail.
    7. CSIRO is willing to license under RAND. Everyone says fuck off.
    8. CSIRO sues 7 colors of shit out of everyone and everyone in that case settles.
    9. CSIRO sues teh remainder of people not paying royalities.

    It is noteworthy that the CSIRO has repeatedly said it was willing to license technology, and even sold to CISCO the startup the created for developing this (for 295 mil) which is why CISCO isn't in any suits (I think..).
    The IEEE asked them for a exemption and the CSIRO explicitly said no.
    The companies in question went ahead and implemented it, then sued to overturn the patent they knew they were infringing on.

    Fuck them, the CSIRO deserves every penny they get out of these fuckers.

  • by omni123 (1622083) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @09:58PM (#32427242) Homepage
    How about the knowledge that this is not a software patent? Everyone here is always up-in-arms about software patents (hell, you have a wiki devoted to it) but this is just a case of you missing the forest for the trees. This is a scientific research patent which if you had bothered to read the actual patent for does not cover any software implementation; it covers the theories behind WiFi (and some low level scientific theories such as mQAM, BPSK, etc).
  • by phoenixdigital (561594) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @10:13PM (#32427336) Homepage
    To anyone that really doesn't know how/why this all came about watch this 12minute news story on the case, its history and the players involved.
    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2708730.htm [abc.net.au]
  • by Namarrgon (105036) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @10:41PM (#32427498) Homepage

    Patents exist to progress technology for the public benefit.

    All the research CSIRO does is for the public's benefit. That doesn't mean they have to give it away free to the entire world, after Australian taxpayers funded it.

    Nor are CSIRO "vetoing" anyone from implementing wifi - they're simply asking for a reasonable royalty for the work they did. The lawsuits only started after companies knowingly used CSIRO's technology over other, inferior alternatives, and refused for years to licence it. I doubt many of these companies actually signed contracts with CSIRO, but they certainly and knowingly chose to use the technology that CSIRO developed, then ignored any request for the compensation they knew was owed. The fact that these companies are now settling for significant sums of money instead of fighting it out in court means they know they're in the wrong, and always were.

    I'm not even sure why you think this is a software patent. References to "data processing" components are only part of the patent, and there's lots of descriptions of tranceivers hubs, error correction and demodulation techniques, circuit switching and circuit diagrams.

  • Slashdot Hypocrites (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:26AM (#32428130)
    CSIRO actually made (substantially) the damn tech and they patented and now want to get paid paid? If MPEG is allowed to exist defensive why on earth can't the CSIRO, and they are a research organisation for crying out loud not a money grabbing corp.
  • by jrumney (197329) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:05AM (#32428850) Homepage
    It is quite normal for chipsets to not include royalties for patents, as the chip by itself cannot infringe many patents (only ones related to IC packaging and design). It is not until it is put into a circuit with other components that the patented technology is realised, and there may be ways of using the chipset that do not infringe on the patent, or the finished product may only be going to countries where the patent is not recognized.
  • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @04:00AM (#32429028)

    I suppose that's true. But a corporation is actually independent. Whereas a quango, like NASA, just does what they are told by their leash holders.

    But it doesn't work like that in Australia. For a start the independent government-owned (but increasingly partially self-funding, for which see CSIROs patents), organisations are corporations (statutory corporations), and exhibit a large measure of independence from government. For instance the ABC (the public broadcaster) is the only news service that will regularly criticise government of all complexions. State owned media should never be on a leash, rather it should bite the hand that feeds it. I know this isn't always the case, but it is here.

    On the other hand the (previous) Australian government was described, with some accuracy, by a senior Murdoch executive as "a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp." I'm not sure that the change in government has affected that position substantially.

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