Australian Government Wins Patent Claim On WiFi; Demands Everyone Pay Up

from the thanks,-Australia! dept

How better to kill an emerging disruptive technology that to bog it down with damaging patent claims? We’ve noted over the past few years that a bunch of companies are all jumping on the bandwagon to claim patents concerning WiFi. However, perhaps the most worrisome is the one claimed by the Australian tech research agency CSIRO covering a fairly broad spectrum of basic wireless local area network technology. Last year, a bunch of tech companies, including Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, Apple and Netgear teamed up to attack the validity of the patent, but CSIRO continued to focus on suing a smaller firm to get royalties first. Not surprisingly, the firm filed the suit in every patent holder’s favorite court in Eastern Texas. So, it should come as no surprise that the court decided earlier this week that the patent is valid and the company, Buffalo, needs to pay up. CSIRO says it now plans to seek royalties from, well, everyone — and they might not just limit it to WiFi either, potentially targeting companies building or offering WiMax or Bluetooth solutions as well. As for the other lawsuit from all those big companies? Glenn Fleishman at WiFi Networking News (the link above) notes that CSIRO claims that they don’t need to pay attention to that lawsuit since, as a foreign government body, they can’t be sued — yet, they seem to have absolutely no problem at all suing others and demanding royalties. Funny how that works.

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Comments on “Australian Government Wins Patent Claim On WiFi; Demands Everyone Pay Up”

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CSIRO is not immune from lawsuits – at least under Australian law – but it’s a matter for US law (assuming the suit was brought there) as to whether CSIRO is considered the Australian government. Section 8(3) of CSIRO’s legislation (Science and Industry Research Act 1949) provides that it can be sued (again, under Australian law). CSIRO has developed over the years some of the best research science in the world but frequently lacks sufficient funding to commercialise its research and usually sells it off, so it’s refreshing to see that it is prosecuting its IP which was created with taxpayer-funded research. Do we imply from your comment an assertion that somehow CSIRO does not deserve to have any protection for its product simply because alot of companies (hyper-wealthy companies at that) have used the inventions?

Jamie says:

Re: immunity

“Do we imply from your comment an assertion that somehow CSIRO does not deserve to have any protection for its product simply because alot of companies (hyper-wealthy companies at that) have used the inventions?”

No I think you can imply from his comment that he thinks the patents are NOT valid. Most of the broader wireless patents out there aren’t valid if you look for any prior art. It seems awfully suspicious that CSIRO made sure to go after one of the smaller players in the market first. If their patents are valid and not too broad or obvious, why didn’t they go after one of the bigger players? Sounds like patent troll behavior.

If you act like a patent troll, people are going to assume that you are one.

krached says:

Re: Re: immunity

“It seems awfully suspicious that CSIRO made sure to go after one of the smaller players in the market first. If their patents are valid and not too broad or obvious, why didn’t they go after one of the bigger players?”

Just because they defeated the smaller player does not prevent other parties from claiming in a court that the patent is invalid. If you read the article, you will find that Buffalo Tech unilaterally pulled out of license negotiations. Maybe that is why they were sued.

Chris Moulder (user link) says:

hmmm, how much are they worth. I’m sure Microsoft would be glad to just buy them out…maybe the whole Australian gvnt…they can’t be worth too much more, lol.

What’s the validity of a foreign organization suing a US company in US court though? Wasn’t there recently the thing with the spam black lister in the UK getting sued or something and they ignored the case because it was in US courts… Ofcourse, it caused a crapload of problems with ICANN.

How can a patent as broad as to include Bluetooth and WiFi be valid anyway? They’d need something like, all forms of wireless data transfer to cover that, and common use dates for that would have been in prob the 70s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: haha (cleft)

haha we have american military tech.
soon will have super hornets, cruise missiles, jsf.
we have c17, abrams tanks and all the goodies.
There is a reason there are laws. But hay,who wouldnt want American Military Technologhy….
Do you see the problem with making you laws debunked.
by all means go ahead….but do come crying to us when it happens to you…..hahaha

whargoul (user link) says:

Re: WTF?

I’ve been noticing that alot too. A company will come up with a product, service, way of doing things (wireless) and sit on it for years watching it grow into a megalithic industry standard (802.11) and then claim “patent infringement”.

If they wait that long allowing it to grow (like wireless has) before claiming infringement, they shouldn’t be allowed to persue it.

Al DePansieu says:

Re: Re: WTF?

“If they wait that long allowing it to grow (like wireless has) before claiming infringement, they shouldn’t be allowed to persue it.”

Something akin to the ‘due diligence’ required to obtain the patent to begin with, no? From where I sit, silence is concurrence. So if you’re going to stand by for years while entities (public or private) publicly use the technology you create without speaking up about it in a reasonable amount of time, looks to me like you miss out on the payments. Otherwise, that makes you a dishonest asshat.

Michael Tam (user link) says:

CSIRO is not a company or firm

It would be helpful if you people at least get some basic facts straight. The CSIRO is not a company or a “firm”. It is not one of those corporations that does nothing except buy patents and then sue other companies.

The CSIRO is a highly respected and high quality government funded research organisation in Australia. If they own the IP to aspects of basic wireless technology, that’s because they actually did the underlying research.

As for the “foreign” organisation comment up this thread, that is the most idiotic statement I have read in a while. The US expects its IP to be upheld wordwide, whether the country is part of the WTO or not. The same is true in reverse. All other nations expect THEIR IP to be respected in the United States.

The fact that the CSIRO went to the US to play by the US rules (rather than having the claim easily sorted out in Australia) and won should be an indicator to the validity of their claim.

Michael says:

Settle down there...

Some of the above comments are acting out as if or when this patent get validated that Australia is going to come knocking on end-users’ doors for royalties…

Does anyone really care anyway if Microsoft or Dell and etc have to pay a little bit of cash to use a technology that they didn’t develop themselves?

What is wrong with the CSIRO getting a little bit in return for something they developed in the first place anyway?

And of course they’re going to go after a smaller company first, why would they shoot themselves in the foot?

Rick – you’re another shining example of US stupidity/naivety

hellacoolperson says:

Wake up Michael, yes you the 23rd commenter! CSIRO did not develop this technology! They bought the patent and waited until it became mainstream to get their greedy little hands on it. Yes, there is nothing wrong with getting a little money for something that is rightfully yours, but for something you did not even put any effort into developing?! Well they can eat shit and die.

z0idberg says:

Re: Re:

>Wake up Michael, yes you the 23rd commenter! CSIRO >did not develop this technology! They bought the >patent and waited until it became mainstream to get >their greedy little hands on it.

Perhaps you should check into that. I think you will find they did develop the technology and hence have a very valid claim to the patent.

Not many of the articles seem to have the full details but this on e in particular:

suggests that wireless hardware manufacturers already purchase licenses from the CSIRO to use their technology in the devices that they sell. It looks like Buffalo decided not to apply for this hence not pay royalties even though everyone else was, so CSIRO sued them. Now all the other manufacturers are ganging up to invalidate the patent so they don’t have to pay for the licence anymore.

Az says:

THey developed it, they didnt do anything about it. CSIRO having the funding to even sue ANYONE the way the Australian Government behaves is amazing.

WE recently signed a free trade agreement with the US, thats why its valid fools. Rather than a cross boundary dispute they are persuing these claims because it is now worth their effort and money as our patent or more readily recognized in your country, a completely valid and original patent.

THEY developed the technology, and they didnt stifle its beggining and let it become a commertial product. Now they wish to capitalise on the things based on the technology THEY INVENTED AND HOLD PATENTS ON.

The patent system is screwed, but this is an example where its acctually valid for once!

Vincent says:

Let’s get a couple things straight. Buffalo didn’t think they could get sued by the CSIRO so they stole the technology without paying license fees. This changed with the Australian-US free trade agreement signed in 2004. The FTA gives additional legal rights, it gives increased powers for Disney and Universal to sue foreign pirates, it gives the CSIRO additional rights to sue companies like Buffalo. Buffalo deserved to lose.

The big laptop manufacturers are already paying license fees to the CSIRO for the wireless standard and have been doing so since the CSIRO technology was became the industry standard. They are suing the CSIRO to try and avoid paying these fees on the off chance they can save a bit of money. This is big greedy corporations trying to weasel out of license payments to a loss making government organization that tries to develop technology for social good. I don’t see Intel spending any money on research on immunization and environment recovery.

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