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Australia Wireless Networking

Australian WiFi Inventors Win US Legal Battle 193

Posted by samzenpus
from the piece-of-the-pie dept.
First time accepted submitter Kangburra writes "Australian government science body CSIRO said Sunday it had won a multi-million-dollar legal settlement in the United States to license its patented technology that underpins the WiFi platform worldwide. Scientists from the agency invented the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that is the basis of the WiFi signal employed by computers, smartphones and other Internet-ready devices around the world."
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Australian WiFi Inventors Win US Legal Battle

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  • by heptapod (243146) <heptapod@gmail.com> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:05PM (#39543715) Journal

    What's next? Crocodile Dundee doing a commercial for CSIRO saying "That's not a wireless router. THAT'S a wireless router."

    • by qirtaiba (582509) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @10:21PM (#39545325) Homepage
      25 years later, your first thought about Australia is still Crocodile Dundee? Kinda offensive. Next time there's a story on an American patent owner, should my first post say "What's next? Uncle Sam going to whistle Yankee Doodle Dandy while eating a Big Mac?"
      • Would you prefer he have quoted Kangaroo Jack?
      • That's progress for ya. At least he didn't mention that it's still just a colony of convicts.

        • ...or said that the Aussie national anthem is Waltzing Matilda...
          • I wish our national anthem was Waltzing Matilda.

            Even though the lyrics make no sense, it beats Advance Australia Fair any day.

            • by crutchy (1949900)
              i wish our anthem was "we are australian", but i guess i'll have to be content being girt by sea for the time being
      • That's kinda our three most recognizable cultural exports. I recognize that Crocodile Dundee is kinda silly, but that Kangaroos and Fosters are about all most people see of Australia. Some of us have heard of Vegemite. Your culture (Pop or otherwise) hasn't made it that far. Sorry mate.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        it's either that or surfers. or fosters.

        if uncle sam had a catch phrase.. well, then it would work out to twist that catch phrase, like "I want your wireless router licensing fees!"

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        You have to understand just what Australia looks like overseas. Last time I was in Europe the only three references to Australia I saw on my trip was a showing of Crocodile Dundee 3, a news article about a drunk fisherman who jumped into the water and tried to choke a shark which snatched his catch off his line, and re-runs of Russell Coights All Aussie Adventures [wikipedia.org].

        I actually had to tell my cousin in Austria that no we don't keep kangaroo's as house pets. Ultimately this didn't work too well since I now have

      • your first thought about Australia is still Crocodile Dundee? Kinda offensive.

        That's not offensive. This is offensive: go chew your bum, you lousy bludging dingo-tinkering mattress-shagging sheep-rustling bogan.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:05PM (#39543725)

    This is a major cause for celebration.
     
    Remember folks, this is a RESEARCH ORGANIZATION, these funds will be mostly plowed back into further research.
     
    Also it makes for a good case-in-point, it doesn't matter WHO did the work or WHERE their funding comes from, a valid patent is a valid patent.

    • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:08PM (#39543751)
      Remember folks, this is PATENT LAWSUIT, these funds will be mostly plowed back into the legal firms that filed the suit.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The CSIRO is actually a government funded research institute. They are known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:26PM (#39543875)

        Actually, not too likely. The CSIRO [csiro.au] is one of the few genuine research and development companies out there. The research they do is very useful to many Australians - and they do a considerable amount of work assisting third world countries with farming, food production and water sanitation. While they are taxpayer funded (being a government organisation), a good part of their research dollars come from patents on stuff they come up with. In this case, this is a patent that has been recognised by almost all the companies that make products with it as this snippet from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] explains:

        In late November 2007, CSIRO won a lawsuit against Buffalo Technology, with an injunction that Buffalo must stop supplying AirStation products that infringe on the 802.11 patent.

        On 19 September 2008, the Federal Circuit ruled in Buffalo’s favour and remanded the case to the district court ruling that the district court’s Summary Judgement was insufficient on the merits of obviousness of CSIRO’s patent. Therefore, this case was to be tried again before the district court. In this connection Buffalo was hopeful that it would shortly be permitted to, once again, sell IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g compliant products in the United States. On 13 July 2009 Buffalo announced the settlement of the patent infringement action.

        As of 23 April 2009, the CSIRO has obtained settlements from most of the other organisations involved, including Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Asus, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Nintendo, Toshiba, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton and 3Com.

        Furthermore, even this article on WIFI on Wikipedia has very explanatory [wikipedia.org] information:

        A large number of patents by many companies are used in 802.11 standard. In 1992 and 1996, Australian organisation the CSIRO obtained patents for a method later used in Wi-Fi to "unsmear" the signal. In April 2009, 14 tech companies agreed to pay CSIRO for infringements on the CSIRO patents. This lead to WiFi being attributed as an Australian invention.

        • Thats for re-iterating what was already mentioned in the article. That doesn't mean the lawyers won't take a big fat chunk of the millions. I doubt the law firm was a generous government organisation. My google foo only provided a list of CSIRO legal costs for 2000-2006. All costs were listed except the wireless patent litigation, which was marked as "Legal in confidence" with some texas law firm.
        • by haruchai (17472) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @07:42PM (#39544393)
          Pffft. Since it's been clearly established that government is incapable of doing anything right, there's no way this is legitimate work by CSIRO. They must have stolen the IP from Hedy Lamarr and is using it to browbeat good old American job creators into given up their hard-earned wealth. Bloody Aussie socialists.
        • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @08:52PM (#39544911) Homepage Journal

          a good part of their research dollars come from patents on stuff they come up with

          That might be overstating it a little, CSIRO's income from IP:
          2006-7 30.6M
          2007-8 81.7M
          2008-9 229.6M
          2009-10 46.7M
          2010-11 29.2M

          For 2010-11 income from IP was only ~2% of their total revenue.
          2008-9 was a big year, making about 20% of their revenue and includes the $205 million settlement from a previous WiFi case.

          Which isn't to say that CSIRO should not bother chasing IP revenue, obviously it can be very rewarding.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Keep a sharp eye on the patent holders. It would not be below a right wing government to pull a quick shonky deal. Sell the patent off cheap to a private company for an offshore tax have sales commission, so the private company can capitalise on the patent.

          The Liberal (big 'L' Liberal as in Libertarian) stated that all CSIRO work must make a profit, effectively banning all research work that bloody 'SAVED MONEY' in favour of research work that could be off loaded to private companies in sweet hard deals

      • Yeah well thats the fault of the bloody US companies, not the CSIRO.
        Some money is better than none for a research organisation.

  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:07PM (#39543737)

    The CSIRO isn't your typical patent troll. They do serious R&D on all sorts of things: environment, solar, agriculture, minerals, you name it. They're very well respected in Australia for the research they do.

    The money from this win will go towards funding more research. These are the good guys; if they have a patent for something, it will be more than your typical "XOR for a visible cursor that doesn't interfere with the display" job.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Well, they certainly have made major advances in the field of astroturfing.

    • by ignavus (213578)

      The CSIRO isn't your typical patent troll.

      I remember being taught at school about the CSIRO back in the 1960s. Even back then they were an icon of Australian scientiic and technical research, in the same way that NASA is in the US.

      Australians are rightly proud of the CSIRO. We don't mind if the rest of the world chips in, every now and then, to support the CSIRO's research - especially when the rest of the world benefits too.

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:12PM (#39543775) Homepage Journal
    It's sad to see how much effort they had to go through. This case is EXACTLY what patents are for: a bunch of scientists did some research and patented the results - companies took their results and made commercial products out of that and believed they could get away with not paying any kind of royalty or license fee.

    The vast majority of this money will go back into further research, slowly making the world a better place.

    For those who care to know (PDF): Their Most Recent Annual Report [csiro.au].
    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      A bunch of scientists took government funds through a government owned facility, did research, created new technologies, and patented it. That means the government subsequently owns the patent, and not a private institution or individual. I thought there was some kind of clause in most patent laws that exempted governments from being able to own patents. You release it into the public domain, companies use it, make money off of it, and you recoup the expenses in increased tax revenue. If the patent is w
      • by RobHart (70431) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:38PM (#39543971) Homepage

        If you look at the list of companies that were sued (and have settled), you will notice that none of them is an Australian company. It was Australian tax payer dollars that funded this research (and the patenting process), so just how does the Australian government tax all those non-Australain companies??? The ONLY way to do it is with patents so that the companies making money from the technology in many countries around the world pay a part of their profits back to the inventors.

        As has been said, the CSIRO will use this money to fund further research - such as the "pure" radio astronomy work which resulted in this spin off piece of technology in the first place!

        RobHart

      • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @08:18PM (#39544671) Homepage Journal
        It seems difficult to make the case that the best thing for the Australian Government to do would be to enter the patent into the public domain. As far as return on investment (ie Australian taxpayers money) goes licencing the product to the world seems a far better idea than giving it away and hoping for some tangential return in Australian tax revenue.

        While the global population is so much larger than the Australian population it is a no-brainer.
        • by mjwx (966435)

          It seems difficult to make the case that the best thing for the Australian Government to do would be to enter the patent into the public domain. As far as return on investment (ie Australian taxpayers money) goes licencing the product to the world seems a far better idea than giving it away and hoping for some tangential return in Australian tax revenue.

          CSIRO != the government.

          The Australian government has no hand in what CSIRO does. The money from this patent will go to fund further research at CSIRO's discretion, which is what CSIRO has done with many other patents.

      • But at least in most of this world, governments have no laws prohibiting them to own patents. However, there are some treaties like in the EU, where local governments aren't allowed to make a profit out of any commercial activity, without paying taxes over said profit. This is merely to insure a level playing field where commercial companies get fair competition. In summary, there is no real reason why governments shouldn't own patents, just as long as it's not unfair competition to commercial entities.
  • by ihaveamo (989662) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @06:23PM (#39543851)

    Wifi? That's nothing!. For REAL world-changing Aussie IT, look no further than Product Activation! [wikipedia.org],
    which won a massive $388 million payout (Mostly from from Microsoft). And then lost. And then won again, and then lost again, and then a sorta 25% win or something..

    I mean, come on!. Imagine life WITHOUT product activation. Microsoft products just wouldn't "feel" the same. It's the core technology of their whole solution!

  • The Bottom Line (Score:2, Insightful)

    The bottom line in all of this is that you're WiFi devices are now a bit more expensive than before. Would be nicer to have worldwide standards that aren't patent encumbered.

    • by Sabriel (134364)

      Would be nicer, yes. But until then, at least this time the scientists who did the work will get paid for it.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      In this particular case, CSIRO actually did invent a bunch of non-obvious stuff crucial to WiFi. So while their royalties will make the devices slightly more expensive, you're erring by comparing to a hypothetical world in which they didn't have a patent on this stuff. The proper comparison is to a world in which WiFi didn't exist or was delayed by years because nobody was willing to do research they did.
    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      Prices depend on what people will pay. The prices won't change.

      However, corporations will make a tiny bit less profit to pay their multi-million dollar CEOs until the market shakes out and everything goes back to normal.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        it cuts on competition somewhat, it's now a tiny bit more hassle to produce those wifi chips - and sourcing them is a bit more complex as well.

        we would have wifi and even -n wifi without their research.. that is a fact. fraunhafer sucked with their mp3 encoder patents and these guys could just suck it too.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      If the grammar checker were not patented we might be spared your extremely basic error, too.

      This is what happens when you take someone's patented technology and use it without paying for it. So, if WiFi access points become more expensive, it's not the original patent holder's fault.

  • Australian WiFi Inventors Win US Legal Battle

    What is there something different about Australian Wi-Fi? Why doesn't the headline say, "WiFi inventors win US legal battle"?

    Maybe it's like Canadian football vs American football, where it's almost exactly the same except for some subtle differences that you wouldn't notice unless you were really paying attention.

    So what is it? Are these the guys that invented WiFi or did they invent Australian WiFi? Please don't make me read the article. I'm already past d

    • by Swampash (1131503)

      All the information you require is contained within the first three words you quote. I guess you learned to read in the USA.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        I guess you learned to read in the USA.

        What is that, some kind of crack?

        Be careful, we've managed to read the instructions on those Chinese-made Predator drones just fine thank you very much, and we don't take kindly to wisecracks about our a-readin' and a-writin' and a-cipherin'.

    • In Australian WiFi the the radio waves go clockwise.

  • DARPA is the equivalent to CSIRO in the US. Just think how pissed off everyone would be if this story went the other direction...
  • annother source (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Catalyst did a story on this just recently. http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2708730.htm. This would be an interesting watch for anyone that has an interest in wireless technologies. It explains what the patent is, how it was conceived and the effort it took for them to gain credit for their work.

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