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CSIRO Settles With Tech Giants Over WiFi Patent Spat 92

Combat Wombat brings news that the legal battle between the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO) and a host of major tech corporations has come to end, with a large settlement going to the CSIRO. The fight was over a patent on wireless LAN technology, which already earned the CSIRO a victory in court over Buffalo Technology and a settlement with Hewlett-Packard. The remaining 13 companies, which include Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Nintendo, have now chosen to settle as well. "[The CSIRO] will use the money won from a Wi-Fi technology patent battle to fund further research. ... It is unclear how much money has flowed to the CSIRO, but experts say the technology would be worth billions of dollars if royalties were paid on an ongoing basis."
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CSIRO Settles With Tech Giants Over WiFi Patent Spat

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  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @01:02PM (#27676263)

    I am going to patent the air that the radio waves travel through. That way they will owe me money.

  • If these giants have had to settle I wonder what the smaller companies will be made to... (glasses)... didgeree-do. (YEAH!)
  • Buffalo Tech (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DomNF15 ( 1529309 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @01:45PM (#27676765)
    All kidding aside, I really wish they would improve the entire patent system/process. Anyone that's familiar with Buffalo's wireless routers knows their products got pulled from shelves for months due to patent litigation. Yes, it hurts Buffalo, but it also hurts their customers. Is it really necessary to pull products off shelves while the litigation is going on? In the end, if the company is found not to be infringing, then business continues as usual. If it is infringing, then it pays some royalty based on number of infringing units sold. That sounds like a good way to make everyone happy without pulling products off shelves and destroying free market competition.
    • Another problem is who should be responsible for paying the license? I'm pretty sure Buffalo(among others) does not currently design its own chips. They are designed by companies like Broadcom and Atheros. Since Broadcom and Atheros are designing chips that use the patents, shouldn't they bear the cost of licensing? The parts of the products that are designed by Buffalo shouldn't really infringe on the patents directly, as they just use the chips that themselves use the patented technology. If I buy a compu

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by DomNF15 ( 1529309 )
        Good point - I guess Buffalo is just an easier target (and more likely to give in to legal pressure) since it is selling the infringing items retail. The court injunction in the USA cost them millions of dollars in sales. This article points out that the patent relates to using OFDM technology to boost throughput: []
        I don't quite understand how CSIRO patented a technology that has been around as long as CD
        • The injunction is terrible in that it was not lifted during appeals. That paints a scary picture for manufacturers as they cannot even keep their business going during appeals. If it weren't for their lucrative storage products, Buffalo Tech likely would have had to close the US office.

          The funny thing is that the CSIRO patent in question specifically speaks of using frequencies above 10 GHz. Since 802.11G uses 2.4 Ghz and A uses 5 GHz, how is this covered by the patent?

          My question was rhetorical in that I w

  • Lesson To Learn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @02:37PM (#27677319) Journal
    Between this and the most recent decision regarding Rambus RAM designs, it should be obvious that no technology used as a standard should be SECRETLY encumbered by a patent. Signatories PLANNING on a Standard could be declared in violation (and lose all royalties thereby) if relevant patent data is not disclosed. That is, when planning on a Standard, every party wishing to participate needs to sign something up-front regarding relevant information and the patent process (or else). This of course won't prevent a Standard from devising something that was patented by someone outside of the working group, unknown to anyone in the group, but it would cut down on deliberate attempts to Standardize a patented thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The thing is though, they actually did declare the standard as patent encumbered, along with a small bulk licensing fee for the use of the patent, the American companies just ignored it. That's the issue, and this is why they are justfied in filing a lawsuit.
      The harmonisation of IP laws (something I personally dont think is in Australia's best interest) goes both ways.

      The money they make off the licensing goes into paying development costs and further research, otherwise it means that the austr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CRC'99 ( 96526 )

        The money they make off the licensing goes into paying development costs and further research, otherwise it means that the australian tax payer is out of pocket for the benefit of the rest of the world (the CSIRO is a research institute supported by the Australian Government, not a private for-profit company).

        Actually, it's more like the Australian tax payers paying for research that financially benefits US companies like Dell, Intel etc etc etc. After all, they are the ones making the money on this, not the rest of the world.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      except that in this case the CSIRO made it clear they had a patent on the tech when they allowed it's use the IEEE standard for wireless networking products in exchange for royalties. to which all the companies said "yes we'll happily pay you the royalties". a decade later and the main companies are finally paying up.

    • Re:Lesson To Learn (Score:5, Informative)

      by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @04:16AM (#27684193)

      Between this and the most recent decision regarding Rambus RAM designs, it should be obvious that no technology used as a standard should be SECRETLY encumbered by a patent.

      What part of this was secret?

      CSIRO was after the companies from the word go, they knowingly and deliberately infringed on a development made by CSIRO and CSIRO made not secret of the fact that they held the patent and wanted to be compensated for their development work if it was to be used in a commercial application.

      CSIRO tried to deal with the companies, when the chipset manufacturers told CSIRO to sod off. Several companies including Apple, Microsoft (add Sony and we have the holy trinity of evil) and Dell are suing CSIRO in order to renege on paying CSIRO for their patent. The only news here is that CSIRO's patent has been upheld, which is nice because it means the patent system is being used for good (as in the way it was meant to work). What part of this was hidden exactly.

      CSIRO [] is a Commonwealth government (Australia) science and technology development organisation, which means that my taxes paid for this (I'm Australian and have no problem with taxes being used for increasing Australia's knowledge and abilities) but they also hold patents and collect license fee's which go towards reducing the amount of tax dollars CSIRO requires to keep research going.

      All rants aside, I agree with you, suing another company by using a secret patent should result in the companies directors being drawn and quartered and the lawyers involved being put against a wall outside the courthouse and shot immediately. But more realistically should cause the immediate and irreversible revocation of the patent in question placing the technology into the public domain.

  • If this were a private, for-profit company that was fighting for IP rights, Slashdotters would be up in arms defending those wanting to use the tech with arguments of Free-as-in-Speech, good-of-humanity, etc. But when it's a non-profit research organization doing exactly the same thing, Slashdotters rush to defend them.

    Are the ideals here really about freedom and liberty or just thinly-veiled anti-corporatism?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @03:30PM (#27677869)

      Are the ideals here really about freedom and liberty or just thinly-veiled anti-corporatism?

      That statement implies the concepts you contrast are incompatiable, they are not. An organization that exisits only to maximize its own profit would willingly sacrifice people's freedoms and liberty, if that seemed to be the most convenient way to pursue this goal. Once upon a time, it was required to demonstrate how a corporation would provide a net benefit to society before a corporate charter could be issued (it would, in theory, be revoked if that benefit never materialized). However, that was a long time ago and the standards are far lower and few seem to remember that corporations were originally allowed to exisit by society, rather than having some intrinsic right to exisit. Therefore IMHO, anyone who values freedom and liberty should at least be suspicious of corporations in their modern form.

    • by Leibel ( 768832 )

      Are the ideals here really about freedom and liberty or just thinly-veiled anti-corporatism?

      ... or are Slashdotters just against the abuse of patents by certain corporations?

      You missed one option.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.