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Buffalo Tech Gets New Trial On Wi-Fi Patent 78

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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  • Are they expensive? (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @03:53PM (#25291029) Homepage Journal

    I paid 29 bucks for mine.

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @03:54PM (#25291043) Homepage Journal
    You just had to order them from Europe. Kind of a pain, but they're quality routers. Hopefully at the end of this trial we wont have to circumvent the system though in order to get our "grubby hands" on some quality, dd-wrt running hardware.
    • by qoncept ( 599709 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:10PM (#25291207) Homepage
      You don't need to circumvent anything to get a Buffalo router if all you want to do is run dd-wrt. There are tons of routers supported, including the 2 I just had laying around from way before I'd ever heard of it. []
      • You don't need to circumvent anything to get a Buffalo router if all you want to do is run dd-wrt. There are tons of routers supported, including the 2 I just had laying around from way before I'd ever heard of it.

        Just because you decide to upgrade the firmware to DD-WRT does not mean that the hardware you run it on isn't important. Personally, I purchased a WRT54G-TM (as opposed to attempting to get a specific version of another model) because I know it has 32M ram and 8M flash, so that I could use the mega image. Ignoring ram/flash sizes, there are still other factors related to the hardware that can affect someone's choice of router. I'm not saying Buffalo is anything special, I don't know; I've never used them

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:53PM (#25291725) Homepage

      High quality and high power. the HP versions go up to 350mw easily.

      they kick the crap out of the other ones out there. Except for the new linksys 600N that's my new darling with fast processor, gobs of flash and ram and takes to DD-WRT quite nicely....

    • I have never tried the Buffalo brand, so I may be speaking from ignorance, but my experience is that cheap and quality are mutually exclusive. I recently bought the DGL-4100 for $109, and it is the only router I have EVER owned that has not crapped out and/or required daily reboots in 6 months or less.
      • by MxTxL ( 307166 )

        I picked up a new Asus WL-500G because my prior linksys was crapping out daily like that. The new Asus did the same thing out of the box. I read somewhere on the net that it was because of bad power. I put the router and cable modem on an UPS and have been 100% stable (knocking on wood) ever since.

    • ....or live in Europe where the patents involved do not exist ....

    • I got mine on clearance at Best Buy, 6 months or so ago.

      I also got a Draft N network adapter on the cheap.


  • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:00PM (#25291105) Homepage

    The Federal Circuit only reversed summary judgment as to obviousness of CSIRO's patents. This means that Buffalo Tech. will have a chance to make its case on that issue alone. You see, based on the silence of the BT press release on the other issues against BT on summary judgment, I would have to conclude that the Federal Circuit upheld those.

    I also have to add that the lawsuit is filed in the plaintiff-friendly (to put it softly) E.D. Texas.

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

        I just happened to be involved [] 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 [] and the paper [], 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 [] project and the work that went into it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        I could accept a patent system IFF there was a presumption that independent re-invention proved obviousness and deliberate disclosure of one's own patents without a WARNING/NDA in advance was a crime (to prevent patent holders from trying to poison the well).

        I would also say that if a competent engineer in the field couldn't replicate the invention without additional research just by reading the patent, it's void.

        To me, this actually sounds like some worked their butts off to actually do something useful an

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HuguesT ( 84078 )

          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 r

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            The first to invent should get the credit as in research.

            Credit in the academic sense is fine. 20 years of monopoly is not. If two people work their butts off for 10 years to make something work and finally, both have the eureka moment within hours of each other, why should one be entitled to 20 years of monopoly profits and the other be out in the cold? Notably, it's not unusual for independent discoverers to receive co-credit in the academic world.

            It really doesn't matter if the two efforts happen at the same time if the second inventor truly has no knowledge (

        • by Zordak ( 123132 )

          I could accept a patent system IFF there was a presumption that independent re-invention proved obviousness

          It's not a presumption, but that is one of the factors of obviousness a court can consider.

          deliberate disclosure of one's own patents without a WARNING/NDA in advance was a crime (to prevent patent holders from trying to poison the well)

          Most countries have an "absolute novelty" requirement. If you disclose your patent publicly before you file, you can't get a patent. The U.S. has a one-year "grace

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sjames ( 1099 )

            It's not a presumption, but that is one of the factors of obviousness a court can consider.

            Exactly. I believe it should be a presumption. That alone could save millions in litigation costs.

            Most countries have an "absolute novelty" requirement. If you disclose your patent publicly before you file, you can't get a patent. The U.S. has a one-year "grace period," which I think is pretty reasonable. And most patents get published 18 months after their earliest filing date.

            I'm talking about after the fact. If you know I'm working on the same thing you are, it's not fair if you are allowed to mail me a copy of your notebook on your way to the patent office in order to destroy my independent inventor status.

            I haven't looked at this case in detail, but my guess is that it's more than a "passing resemblance." The court found infringement on summary judgment, and the Fed. Cir. upheld it. That has to be a pretty compelling case for infringement. If somebody infringes your valid and enforceable patent, you're entitled to legal relief, even if the other guy worked really hard.

            I would say that it strongly depends on the other guy's knowledge of my work. Interestingly, my argument is the same as the one commonly used to support patents in general: peop

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The CSIRO is Australia's 'Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation' - they pretty much do pure research, mostly government funded. There's branches of it that do applied research with industry alliances. I'm pretty sure the documented research of these guys provided the slam dunk.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • What makes them so great?

    I run a cheap Belkin router. Nothing special but not that expensive.

    • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:22PM (#25291331) Journal

      Well, for whatever it's worth, I've installed a LOT of wireless routers for people over the years - and I learned to generally AVOID Belkin.

      If you've got one that's working well for you, great. But on the whole, they were known for having sub-standard firmware in their devices. I remember, for example, when 802.11g was the "latest and greatest thing", Belkin had a "g" capable router that had a major bug in the firmware, preventing any "g" devices from connecting to it if it was configured to also allow backwards compatibility with "b" devices.

      They did release a firmware update to correct that, but you still had a relatively weak/limited set of configuration options in the product.

      I also recall finding Belkin wi-fi routers to have worse-than-average range.

      People seemed to generally like Buffalo because they were priced a little bit lower than the competition, especially on things like wireless access points (which seem to generally be a big ripoff to this day, since they cost 2x to 3x more than a full-blown router, which can be programmed to function as an access point anyway!). That and they gave good performance for the money, and had better than average web-based interfaces.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:37PM (#25291507) Journal
        Your history of Belkin's sins omits the most amusing one []: At one point, they baked firmware into their routers that would, from time to time, jack an http request from a machine on the lan, and feed them that image instead. Major WTF. Slashdot [] had the story back in the day.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Belkin, Netgear, Linksys, Buffalo, & D-Link are your major home/small office brands.

        They all have stinkers, they all have decent models.

        In general however, Netgear tends to come in at the bottom of the price AND quality range, with a few in the mid-range of quality, Belkin is sort of like this as well, but maybe a little better.

        D-Link & Linksys tend to have more models that are average or slightly above average, both in price & quality. D-Link had some firmware issues a while back, and Linksys y

      • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @09:46PM (#25294711) Homepage Journal

        I like Buffalo because:

        • they work
        • they run dd-wrt
        • they sponsor the dd-wrt project
        • they don't take steps to prevent installation of dd-wrt, unlike other companies (Read: Linksys/Cisco)
      • I have a Belkin - and after many revisions of the firmware its still got a lot of bugs. They often fix something and break something else. Belkin should not be singled out for this though, I have also seen huge amounts of problems with firmware from Netgear and others. So far the only really solid device I have seen has been a Dynalink - which is supposedly a fairly cheap brand. I havent used Billion for over 5 years but it might be ok. I remember when I bought one of their devices when adsl was new in Aus
    • by _PimpDaddy7_ ( 415866 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:23PM (#25291341)

      - They are quality routers
      - You can flash them with some excellent software
      - Sync them up so you have longer wi-fi distance running through you house, apt, etc.
      - Their range tends to be larger than other routers.

      Belkins, netgear, Linksys always seem to have died on me, but my Buffalos are still roaming -bad pun intended :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by frostband ( 970712 )

        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

      • by Kazymyr ( 190114 )

        Not to mention that, not long before they were hit with the trial, the company (Buffalo) had started openly supporting the dd-wrt project with money and hardware, and there were even rumors that dd-wrt would become the official firmware on Buffalo routers.

      • QFT! Buffalo routers' range is quite excellent, beats anything else I've used. You can easily flash the router with 3rd party firmware such as Tomato (excellent option, I like it better than DD-WRT).

        I love my Buffalo router, and expect it to last me quite some time..until I have a need for 802.11n, anyway.

    • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:28PM (#25291421) Homepage
      From my experience Belkin routers become unreliable quite easily.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by corsec67 ( 627446 )

      I only have 1 Buffalo router, a WHR-G54S, and it is mounted to a pole, outside [] 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 R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @04:39PM (#25291527)

    "On September 19, 2008, a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that CSIRO patent claims are invalid and Buffalo is getting a new trial."

    The Circuit court did no such thing - it ruled that the judge had erred in issuing a summary judgment, and it needed to go back to trial. NOWHERE in the link does it say that the Appellate Court ruled on the validity of the patent.

  • 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 yyr ( 1289270 )

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

      I second this. I was really disappointed when I found that I couldn't recommend it to my friends, because it was no longer for sale. You get a wireless bridge with a four-port switch in one unit...for around 50-60 bucks. What's not to like? If I wanted Linksys, I'd have to buy two separate units, and I'd be paying at least double the price.

  • 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 [] under the following 3 patents: 4975952 [] (claims 1, 4 and 6), 6018642 [] (claims 2, 6, and 8), and 6469993 [] (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 []:

    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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by reebmmm ( 939463 )

      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.

  • Indeed, the one Buffalo router I purchased before they got shut down has outperformed Linksys, Motorola, and anything else. It's never failed to operate perfectly and cost a lot less than other highly-publicized and eventually dumbed-down, cut down equipment. You make a good product and sell it at a good price, so people buy it. Then some court tells you "no". WTF? If they were illegally dumping them into the US market, charge them with that offense. But since when can someone not legally market a dev
  • This is another me-too-I-love-my-Buffalos-over-all-other-brands post.

    I think a lot of us, me most definitely, want to share the goodness that is Buffalo for those unfamiliar.

    It would be nice to have non-front-page polls for this sort of thing - so others could see how many of us speak from experience and highly recommend Buffalo products.

    Nothing wrong with slagging a product that sucks or proselytizing for one that cures common woes. I value /. opinions more than I can say.

    • highly recommend Buffalo products.

      Not a router, but I purchased a Buffalo Wireless USB dongle. I had a good many issues getting the driver to work on XP, and their website was impossible to find any driver updates. I could not get it to work on Linux at all. So one experience has left a bad taste in my mouth for the company.

  • by Ma8thew ( 861741 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:29PM (#25292155)
    Got a G54 preinstalled with DD-WRT from Buffalo last week. Immediately installed Tomato on it, and it's performed brilliantly. Whereas before I would have to reboot my router once every other day, this one has an up time of eight days so far. I love the QoS features of Tomato. Keeps the web speedy during torrent downloads.
  • ...they were taken off the shelf. This WHR-G125 is *awesome*. Great range and just seems to be quite reliable hardware. Wasn't too bad on the price, either. I just wish OpenWRT had full support for it's processor, but I can deal with Tomato/DDWRT :)

  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zouden ( 232738 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:44PM (#25292389)

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

    They're only low-cost because they aren't paying the inventors for their work.

    • 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 [] 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.
      • In addition, CSIRO sued buffalo in several other countries over the respective patents, and lost all of these cases(including CSIRO's home country of Australia). This is the reason you can still import Buffalo routers from Japan and Europe.

        My biggest beef is that these suits were leveraged at Buffalo, instead of the chipset manufacturers (Broadcom, Ralink, Texas Instruments, etc). If anyone truly is voilating the patents, it would be the chip providers, not the companies using the chips.

  • 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 ufoolme ( 1111815 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:10PM (#25292777)

    I'm all for breaking IP if its for personal use, or to increase the scope of the research.
    But in this case its a massive company being greedy! Not paying its due to a non profit organisation devoted to research. Who developed wi-fi when no one else was really interested in it.
    That to me is analogous to the open source movement, especially so when you consider that Buffalo sued CSIRO first.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      CSIRO is an Aussie Government research institute. They come up with a lot of awesome technologies used around the world and the money is channeled back into R&D. Australia has so few research labs CSIRO is one of the few that is still around. I hope they win because the work they do is outstanding and they're one of the last bastions of creative development in Australia.

      • by Drathos ( 1092 )

        CSIRO is also the reason that 802.11n is in perma-draft status.

      • It would be good to see Buffalo contest their patent infringement in an Australian court...This will cost CSIRO hard-one funding to pursue their claim in a Texas court.

        • AFAIK, CSIRO sued Buffalo in each country where it holds this patent, and Buffalo won in all except the US. Since this story is about a dispute over a US patent, it has to go through the US legal system. Plus, the district where this was brought, is the district Buffalo's US division operates in. This district is notorious for siding with the patent-holder, even when the patent is bunk.

          I am not a lawyer, but this particular patent does seem pretty legit, however they should be going after the chipset manuf

          • I thought Buffalo Technology did develop and sell the affected 802.11a chipset.
            Your right in that CSIRO launched injunctions international, but was only successful in the US.

            On a side note: The research done by the CSIRO was done at Macquarie University, which currently has active 802.11a buffalo chip wifi (comp.sci/stat/econ buildings).

            • I was under the impression that the lawsuit was over any wireless product, not just 802.11A products. However, if only 802.11A chipsets were affected, how could the injunction ban them from selling ALL wireless devices in the US?

              Plus, if Buffalo did develop its own 802.11a chipset, I don't believe it was ever imported to the US (ever looked at a Buffalo Japan catalog? there are tons of products not brought to Europe or US). I've worked with quite a few Buffalo products, and the only 802.11a products I recal

  • I never understood the fascination with the Buffalo routers. When I lived in Austin, I just wrote it off as people trying to push the local company on everyone. My experience with their routers is that they were cheap knock-offs of Netgear's low-end wireless routers. And like a lot of the low-end Netgear routers, they had limited range, and would drop connections about every 15 minutes. Have they improved over the years? I would hope so, but my personal experience is to never recommend anyone to buy Buf
    • I was going to buy their dual band n router before the injunction hit because it was one of only 2 dual band Ns available at the time, and the specs were impressive.

    • I've had one of the Buffalo routers for around 2 years now (the WHR-G54S), and have never had any significant problems with it - works fine for daily use hooked up to 2 PCs, a laptop, a Wii, and a DS.

      The Linksys router I had before that turned into an unreliable piece of junk about 6 months after purchase - all the problems you apparently had with the Buffalo.

  • I've wondered this since Buffalo routers disappeared from store shelves due to the lawsuit. Are Buffalo routers somehow more infringing on this patent (valid or not) than the million other brands of wifi gear on the store shelves? Since they are all based on the same standards, it would seem like they should all be infringing as well and should be sued also (or at least supporting Buffalo in the fight).

    Have the other companies signed their own licenses or is CSIRO just targeting Buffalo to set a precedent

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.