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The Courts Government Patents Wireless Networking News Hardware

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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:51PM (#25294299) Homepage Journal

    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 and then someone else saw a passing similarity to something they did once (but then left to rot somewhere) and decided to cash in.

    It's noteworthy that many attorneys advise engineers to NEVER look at patents because it could drastically increase liability if they should happen to see one vaguely similar to anything they have implemented even if the dense patentese kept them from recognizing it.

    I personally object to patents as they are now because I have personally had ideas that I considered too obvious for a patent or discarded outright because they weren't really all that good (or both) and then seen them patented. Why should anyone have the right to sue me for a fortune if I re-use one of my own ideas?

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:59PM (#25301709) Homepage Journal

    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: people should not be deprived of the fruits of their labor.

    Things look a LOT worse when you're a developer and you realize that your hard work may be snatched from you (and worse, you may be ordered to hand a small fortune ober to the person who snatches it) based on a decision made by someone who may or may not be able to turn on their PC unassisted.

    I realize the example I am about to give may seem quite odd to you, but it is (as close as I can get it) how many developers and engineers feel about patents and their effects on our field.

    Consider how you might feel if your professional actions might do one of succeed, fail, or cost you (or your employer) $10,000,000 because an engineering committee decided that the confzigulator efficiency coefficient was too low for their taste. You ask what's a confzigulator and just how efficient it needs to be and they answer: "well, that depends...." and suggest you get an engineering degree or consult an engineer prior to submitting any legal documents or giving an oral or written opinion. Of course, that engineer's opinion will be helpful but non-binding. You might still be liable.

    Put another way, imagine if at any time, someone could hire an engineer to look at your legal arguments in what you think is a routine civil trial and claim up to 100% of all fees you collect for handling the matter. You have the right to hire your own engineer to counter the claim, but he will cost you 200% of the fees you hope to retain.

    Who invented that crazy system you have to live in? The IEEE, of course.

    IMHO, one of the problems with law as a whole as it is practiced today is that there is literally no course of action or policy one can follow that can even approach absolute assurance that there won't be legal trouble. In the area of patents, nobody at all can tell me if I will or will not become subject to expensive patent litigation for any thought I may attempt to reduce to practice. Imagine how lawyers (or anyone else in the general public) might feel if they asked "will that bridge collapse if I walk across it?" and the engineers answered, "gee, we guess not, but we won't be sure until you cross it".

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.