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Australia Patents The Courts Wireless Networking Technology Your Rights Online

Is Australia's CSIRO a Patent Troll? 175

Posted by timothy
from the always-thought-of-it-a-fairly-benevolent dept.
schliz writes "Australian tech publication iTnews is defining 'patent trolls' as those who claim rights to an invention without commercializing it, and notes that government research organization CSIRO could come under that definition. The CSIRO in April reached a $220 million settlement over three U.S. telcos' usage of WLAN that it invented in the early 1990s. Critics have argued that the CSIRO had failed to contribute to the world's first wifi 802.11 standard, failed to commercialize the wifi chip through its spin-off, Radiata, and chose to wage its campaign in the Eastern District courts of Texas, a location favored by more notorious patent trolls."
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Is Australia's CSIRO a Patent Troll?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:00AM (#40192237)

    As an amateur photographer, I don't sell any of my photography. I do post it online for people to look at and enjoy, but I don't commercialize it.

    As an open source software author, I also don't sell or commercialize any of my code - I license it for the most part under the GPL and have for years.

    But in neither case does this mean others are free to take what I've created and do with it what I do not wish. You don't get to sell my photography for your own profit, you don't get to include my code in your commercial app, not without my permission. I've been in court over two photography infringements and won, and went damned near it for code I've written with others. I don't see why patents in a system that accepts them as valid (their validity is another entire argument) are any different. Creator gets the say...

    • by gstrickler (920733) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:36AM (#40192851)

      Copyright and patent are very different. Patents give you exclusive rights to an idea, process, or method. Copyrights only cover making copies of a specific implementation. Comparisons between the two will always result in a flawed analogy.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Ideally, patents only give rights to an implementation of an idea.

      • Copyright and patent are very different. Patents give you exclusive rights to an idea, process, or method. Copyrights only cover making copies of a specific implementation. Comparisons between the two will always result in a flawed analogy.

        It is true that copyright and patents are different, but then so are cars and patents - and yet we still accept car analogies. Being different doesn't mean the analogy is flawed. So where exactly did the grandparent go wrong?

        • By comparing copyright to patent. His analogy of his photographs and software is completely unrelated to patents. He doesn't own the ideas embodied by his pictures or code, he only owns the specific pictures and code, and he controls the right to copy them (thus the name copyright). Anyone can go take materially the same photo, or write a program to do that same things and it has no relationship to his copyright. They can even sell their photos and programs. That isn't true of patents. The attempt to compar

          • I still disagree. Just as someone else can take their own photographs of the same subject matter, so to can other companies solve the multipath Wi-Fi problem using a technology other than the one the patent provided. For example, if you can make your own Wi-Fi standard and avoid having to use fast fourier transforms to cancel out the echo then you would not owe the CSIRO a cent.

            But I think you are missing the point of the original poster. The AC was merely pointing out that the CSIRO invented the technology

            • ...so to can other companies solve the multipath Wi-Fi problem using a technology other than the one the patent provided.

              Which is exactly why a comparison to copyright is flawed. It's different (from his examples) because it IS different (rights).

              No, I didn't miss the point of the OP. I addressed his statement. Him not commercializing his copyrighted material doesn't limit anyone else. If he had a patent and didn't commercialize it, he CAN prevent others from doing it. Different rules, invalid comparison.

              • Different rules, invalid comparison.

                This is never going to end, because we are going around in circles. My final comment would be to suggest that you look up the definition of the word analogy [thefreedictionary.com] and see that it describes a similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. Copyright and patents do not need to be 100% agreement for an analogy to take place, especially when the differences do not alter the intent of the original statement.

                • I suggest you re-read the thread and try to understand what was actually said.

                • Or, to make it simple for you. The OP described how he deals with his own COPYRIGHTED material, using rules that apply to copyrights, not patents. Then, without making any attempt to apply that logic to patent rights, says "I don't see why patents ... are any different."

                  They're different because the rules are different, exactly as I described my in my reply to him. His analogy is based upon rules that are specific to copyright and it doesn't address patent rights at all. Therefore, the analogy is flawed. No

                  • Oh dear. I made the mistake of having a peek to see if you had replied

                    Let me make it even simpler for you. Look at the subject line of this thread. "Their work, their say". It is a theme that is reflected in the last sentence (the take home message). "Creator gets the say". It appears that the topic the OP wished to discuss was that the patent holder has final say over who gets to use his patents. His main point was that it doesn't matter if you do not make commercial use of your patent or copyright, you st

                    • A copyright does not prevent anyone from using the same idea, process, or technology, it only prevents copying a specific expression of it. Failure to commercialize copyright has ABSOLUTELY no impact on anyone other than the copyright holder.

                      Patents exclude anyone from using the patented material without a license for the duration of the patent. Failing to commercialize a patent affects EVERYONE who could benefit from that patent.

                      Copyright and patent are fundamentally different, the rules are different, the

                    • NOBODY IS ARGUING THAT COPYRIGHTS AND PATENTS ARE DIFFERENT BEASTS!

                      Seriously, what is the point of continuing to keep posting virtually the same message no matter what is said to you? Do you just not read the messages or something? Do you just look for keywords like "copyright" in a story about patents and then post rants? Are you incapable of entertaining the idea that you misunderstood what the original poster said? If people use a car analogy, do you start arguments about gas vs diesel?

                      I am beginning t

                    • I keep posting it because you don't seem to be getting the message. The OP's analogy is flawed beyond repair, yet you keep trying to defend it. Clearly I'm not trolling, my post is rated higher than the OP, I haven't attacked anyone, and I haven't replied with anything more than clarifications and additional details of my original post.

                      The question is why to you keep posting trying to make the OP/AC's point for him when clearly he's coming from a flawed premise?

                    • Neither of your statements in bold are false, but your conclusion is flawed for the reasons I've sited in several of my previous posts.

    • Assume that the taxpayers are paying you to take these pictures because it has been decided that it was important for art to be produced. Wouldn't it make sense to make these photographs available to all, without restrictions?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:00AM (#40192239)

    Where does having actuallly done the damn work and in fact continuing to put their efforts into doing even more research fit into the patent troll definition?

    • by FirephoxRising (2033058) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:08AM (#40192277)
      Exactly. So the answer is no, they're not patent trolls at all. Others have said that they could've got it to work and that the solution they found wasn't revolutionary, but no one else did get it to work, so CSIRO gets the credit and should enjoy some benefits from that. If you're saying that they did nothing unique, then why didn't you do it first, get a working solution out there and enjoy the results?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. Trolls are also supposed to have no business model other than litigation. This article focuses on one single lawsuit and entirely disregards all the positive innovations the CSIRO has done. Its so stupid, "its not even wrong"

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:02AM (#40192243) Homepage Journal

    Australian tech publication iTnews is defining 'patent trolls' as those who claim rights to an invention without commercializing it

    Dingo dongers. Some companies are good at R&D, some at mass production. It's perfectly valid to specialise in one or the other.

    Is an architect a troll if he doesn't dig his own foundations? Article's a bag of arse, mate.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:18AM (#40192315)

      Yeah, deffo taking the piss here.

      CSIRO is not a patent troll because they freely license their patents to almost anyone who wants to use them. They don't lock their patents up and wait for someone to accidentally infringe them, if you want to license a CSIRO patent you just contact them. Patent trolls do not license their patents. CSIRO developed the technologies they license, the money gained from the patents goes into more research, so they aren't trolling to get money for shareholders because they haven't got any.

      So the article doesn't know its arse from its elbow.

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:03AM (#40192507) Homepage

        Not to forget CSIRO does a whole bunch of research that they give away absolutely free. It was only the right wing ass hats Liberal Party that demanded all CSIRO research must generate a 'Profit' ie research for pesticides is OK but research using natural predators to controls pest is bad (don't get to sell pesticides etc.). Fortunately this idea was tossed out as basically evil and CSIRO still do a lot of free to access research http://www.csiro.au/ [csiro.au]. The whining about this patent is likely because money going to CSIRO is a double loss for the greedy, having to pay and a lot of that payment going to free to access research.

      • by Carewolf (581105) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:18AM (#40192785) Homepage

        Patent trolls do not license their patents.

        What?! That is the primary purpose of all patent trolls! Why do you think they take companies to court in the first place? To force them to license... Same CSIRO.

      • by Grond (15515)

        Patent trolls do not license their patents.

        Sure they do. How else do you think they make money? Even when they sue, the purpose of the suit is to force the defendant to take a license, either court-imposed or in settlement negotiations. In the case of a non-practicing entity, the purpose of an injunction is just to give the patentee leverage in the license negotiations. There are exceptions, such as a patentee that has an exclusive licensee and is suing to prevent others from using the technology, but ultimately that's about protecting the value

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Patent trolls do not license their patents.

          Sure they do. How else do you think they make money? Even when they sue, the purpose of the suit is to force the defendant to take a license, either court-imposed or in settlement negotiations. In the case of a non-practicing entity, the purpose of an injunction is just to give the patentee leverage in the license negotiations. There are exceptions, such as a patentee that has an exclusive licensee and is suing to prevent others from using the technology, but ultimately that's about protecting the value of the original license.

          You seem very confused on what a patent troll is.

          You've described an ordinary patent holder, not a patent troll. Patent holders license out their patents, patent trolls hide their patents and sue for an exorbitant amount of money when a patent they've secreted away is violated. This avoids all the tedious negotiation that come with licensing patents from the outset and denying the defendant a chance to work around the patent.

          Patent trolls do not look for reasonable fees, they look for people to sue fo

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:11AM (#40192545)

      1 "bag of arse" = How many "Library of Congresses" . . . ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by alfoolio (1385603)

        1 "bag of arse" = How many "Library of Congresses" . . . ?

        You've unintentionally crossed measurements sir, the international metrics are confusing. To clarify:

        1 "bag of arse" = 0.25 "Member of Congress"

        Hope that helps.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:02AM (#40192245)

    CSIRO actually does research. Patent trolls buy their patents.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cloricus (691063) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:45AM (#40192693)

      Exactly.

      Furthermore, CSIRO immediately reinvested almost all of this money into developing better wireless technology for rural communities in Australia and worldwide (as part of the NBN project). If patent trolls used their gains for research instead of lining pockets of the rich I imagine we'd all have a very different opinion of them.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:50AM (#40192705)

      Exactly. This definition only allows commercial enterprises who do in house R&D to avoid being lumped in with the lowest of the low in the business world.

      Medical research institute? Patent Troll
      Any research organisation? Patent Troll
      Universities? Patent Trolls.

      There are many ways research institutes who patent inventions and then licence them out to companies. Some companies decided to copy the technology without licensing it, technology which the instituted invested money into creating. Just because it had to be settled in the courts they are now a patent troll?

      Which idiot wrote this definition?

    • by mug funky (910186)

      in addition to that, they rarely get sufficient funds to actually commercialise the things they invent.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quick Reply (688867) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:04AM (#40192257) Journal

    No they are not patent trolls. They innovate as their primary purpose, and do not acquire patents from other organisations so they can collect royalties or litigate.

    • by bobby1234 (860820)

      correct. And they allow others to use their invention if they pay an agreed royalty.

      Otherwise there wouldn't be any incentive for them to invent new things. They spent time and money creating the new tech and they need to get a return. As they are not a product company then they rely upon royalties and such to keep inventing the next great thing!

      • Absolutely not. They are a government body, which means that the incentive part has been fixed for them already. The basic argument for patents is indeed what you have stated: it is cheaper to copy than to innovate. Therefore, all companies have an incentive to wait for others to innovate, then copy what they have done. Therefore, there will be less innovation than socially optimal and we must have patents to give companies incentives. In others words, we allow inventors to internalize some of the positive

  • by level380 (2427256) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:06AM (#40192265)
    Based on this any research University or Organisation around the world would become a patent troll unless they start to use the 'research' aka patents they created. Let me spell it out for you, CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation..... Its a Research Organisation that is funded partly by the Australian Govement and partly by the income it gains from patents it created based on its research. This what a Research Organisation do.... it works on new ideas, gets them to a usable stage and sells them on to other companies to use the idea/tech to make money. In return they get a cut of this all done via the patent system. Would slashdot dare call Stanford University or Harvard University a patent troll? Hell no... Poor IT world. CSIRO asked for payment based on companies using there research when all the IT companies tried to steal the idea and play the mob card, ie if no one pays we don't have to! CSIRO is very easy going and licences the work they do at very cheap prices, its not like they asked a over the top amount. Any money they do gain is feed back into future research projects and isn't paid out to shareholders or fat CEO's!
    • It's really a shame that research organizations are now forced to fund themselves. They have no other choice other than to create commercially viable technologies in order to justify their existence.

      Imagine a world where pure research organizations could pursue long term ideas, and give the results of their works for free to the public?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thegarbz (1787294)

        Fail to see the point. If the result of research is not commercially viable then what is the point of the research? Only commercially viable research is passed onto consumers within products. Then it entirely depends on the licensing fees to insure it doesn't make something commercially unviable.

        Note that CSIRO is not forced to fund itself. But at the same token why should the Australian taxpayer be out of pocket for something which benefits the bottom line of the likes of IBM, Cisco, Netgear etc?

        • The point is that it's difficult to predict the relevance of a given technology. If you have a mandate to only explore "commercially viable" science, that means only exploring stuff that boring suits think might generate a bottom line. But people are terrible at predicting what will be useful and what won't.

          Ultimately, yes, I agree, pie-in-the-sky science projects can irritate me, but making all science "commercially viable" is inevitably going to reduce the amount of science that actually produces results

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            True but you still get side spin-offs. As in this case. The way of eliminating interference in WiFi was not discovered because they were trying to solve a WiFi problem, but rather trying to figure out visual problems in space telescope optics. Just because you chase one commercially viable target doesn't mean you can't hit another.

            But I do get what you're saying.

          • that means only exploring stuff that boring suits think might generate a bottom line.

            even worse, it means exploring stuff that suits think will generate the highest amount, leaving us with an intellectual monoculture.

            i understand the csiro has already re-invested into further wireless research as a result of this, but i also hope they're able to spread it around the organisation, even some pie-in-the-sky stuff ( the original wifi patent came about as a result of some radiotelescope research... hows that for pie in the sky? :) )

    • Based on this any research University or Organisation around the world would become a patent troll unless they start to use the 'research' aka patents they created.

      You're misrepresenting the *substantial* difference between research and patent seeking. 'research' is open, it is all about sharing knowledge and promoting the free reuse of discoveries with no strings attached. 'patent seeking' is about closing off ideas and generating rent by artificially restricting the rest of the world's experimenta

      • Most university departments are true research organisations, and they *don't* seek patents.

        This may be true for your local community college, but it's not true for any university with an engineering or science program. Harvard, MIT, USC, Standford, Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech, Cornell, etc. I know, because I'm a patent attorney and have dealt with many of them and seen patents from the others.

      • 'patent seeking' is about closing off ideas and generating rent by artificially restricting the rest of the world's experimentation with similar ideas.

        Right. IIRC CISRO had done some basic research on wireless networks a while ago, and that didn't get commercialized. When other companies did seek to commercialize wireless, they re-invented the same things and CISRO came after them, getting injunctions and such.

        That's not the purpose of the patent system (theoretically, once upon a time, etc.).

  • Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bertok (226922) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:06AM (#40192267)

    If the article heading is a question, then the answer is automatically...

    NO.

    Submit articles with real reporting please, the type that presents facts, instead of asking questions.

    • Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ignavus (213578) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:42AM (#40192407)

      Exactly. THEY invent the process. THEY license it. They do not buy up moribund (and often obvious) patents from other organisations and litigate as their main business.

      An organisation that invents non-trivial things, and patents its own inventions, and only litigates against unlicensed use of its own patented inventions, is not a troll.

      An organisation that buys up old patents for the purpose of litigating against alleged unlicensed users, without inventing the patented inventions itself, is a troll.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:08AM (#40192283)

    CSIRO have had this in the courts for years. All of these companies ignored the lawsuit and their own peril.
    If you want to call a patent troll someone who says "This is a new invention. I'm taking you to court for taking my patent and using it without paying me, even though i've told you that you must pay for it", then yeah, they're a patent troll.

    How about you suck my ball sack for repeating an argument you've already been slapped for.

    CSIRO is anything but a patent troll. Period.

    AC

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theweatherelectric (2007596) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:46AM (#40192421)
    If CSIRO is a patent troll then so is every major university. Stanford University's Office of Technology Licensing [stanford.edu], for example, exists to generate income through the licencing of Stanford developed technologies which they then invest back into research and education. CSIRO similarly invests its income back into research and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund [sief.org.au]. The idea that research organisations are patent trolls and shouldn't be allowed to licence their inventions to others in order to maintain their focus on research is both farcical and intellectually bankrupt. Joe Mullin's jingoistic and, frankly, pathetically insular article isn't worth a second reading.
  • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shione (666388) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:57AM (#40192465) Journal

    If they were truely patent trolls then they wouldn't do their own r&d, nor would they ask for a measly $220 million in total from a number of organisation. Considering how much these organisations make from using WLAN $220 million is a drop in the ocean.

  • by tg123 (1409503) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:36AM (#40192651)

    I find this article annoying as the poster is using this article to promote his point of view which is biased and misleading.

    The CSIRO is a scientific research organization and as such it can in no way commercialize the technology.

    I agree that it was sad that CSIRO have to take companies to court to defend their patents but if these these companies would play by the rules and license the technology then CSIRO would not have to resort to the flawed legal system.

    The fact that you do not like the way it uses patents to fund research is neither here nor their it as it is using patent law for it's intended purpose which is different from a person or organization that uses patents purely for litigation.

    I would ask the poster that if he is going to submit propaganda that at least he should be truthful and honest about what he is doing.

    propaganda [prop-uh-gan-duh] Show IPA noun 1.information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. .... http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/propaganda [reference.com]

    • by whitesea (1811570)
      You don't understand. The submitter hit on a genius formula to get published on Slashdot. 1. Make up a bogus definition. 2. Use this definition to make an outrageous statement. 3. Profit!
  • Anyone who quotes Florian Mueller as if he were anything other than a shill at this stage of the game is full of it.

  • If a "news" organisation makes up their own definition in order to provoke argument, or justify their own opinion they are definetly a troll.

    CSIRO may or may not be a patentent troll but ITnews definetly posts troll stories.

  • But they do commercialise it. They aren't a "build it"organisation, they're an "invent it" organisation. They commercialise their inventions by licensing them to others who have the ability / desire to build it. That's a valid option.

    Just because you've invented something it may only be one piece of the puzzle. The wifi thing they did was a bit like that. It makes the current state of the art much better / useful, but it isn't a stand alone thing.

    From a societal point of view, having groups do researc

    • Licensing to others is nice BUT there are still big problems with allowing a non-practicing entity to sue.

      1. A non-practicing entity cannot be counter-sued. This distorts the legal system in favor of the party doing the suing. This is the primary evil associated with patent trolling.

      Even worse is the case where it is a governmental entity that is doing the suing. If I were the host nation for such a suit I'd be pissed at the country engaging in such extraterritorial behavior by the government of another nat

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:42AM (#40193111)

    Prior to the CSIRO lawsuit, CSIRO actively attempted to license its wifi patents. See http://www.ipo.org/AM/TemplateRedirect.cfm?Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=4600

    When the big multinationals refused to pay patent fees, CSIRO opted to defend its intellectual property rights. That's what the patent system is for. If defending intellectual property rights is considered trolling, then why have IP rights?

  • no, they're not trolls. but this story is.

  • by femto (459605) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:56AM (#40193417) Homepage
    By a company called Radiata, bought by Cisco in 2000. Radiata was a spin off from a Macquarie University/CSIRO research collaboration, founded by the research leaders at Macquarie University (Skellern and Weste). Here's [jwdalton.com] a picture of the MU/CSIRO protype, taken around 1996. I know this because I (and 3 others) designed and built the pictured prototype.
    • by HuguesT (84078)

      Hello John,

      Thanks for this. I do remember the Radiata days, even though I was not involved myself. I was at CSIRO Maths & Stats at the time, later CMIS, at MU. it was big news when CISCO bought it. I'm surprised that CSIRO retained the IP rights over that design.

      I'm not surprised that CSIRO sued and I'm happy they won, but long term I really don' t know whether this will be good or not for the organization. How much time and effort was spent in that litigation ? will the money return to basic science ?

  • by dontclapthrowmoney (1534613) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:19AM (#40193523)

    ...but I couldn't see where I could mod the submission as "troll"?

  • they have contributed by developing a technology, the details of which are given in a patent and which people can licence. It saves others time and effort to achieve the same result.

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