CSIRO Wants To Expand Its WiFi Tax: Sues Mobile Operators

from the no-wifi-without-paying-up dept

Every time we mention CSIRO, the Australian government-owned research group that claims to hold a patent on the basic concept behind WiFi, we get angry comments from people at CSIRO who claim that we've got it all wrong, and that even if they agree with us in general on patents, CSIRO's WiFi patent and the hundreds of millions of dollars it sucks from companies doing actual innovation, is perfectly reasonable. Uh huh. Of course, we still have problems with the idea that any government organization ought to be patenting anything. However, following the decision by a bunch of tech companies sued by CSIRO to pay $250 million to settle the giant patent lawsuit, CSIRO is coming back for more.

JohnForDummies was the first of a few of you to alert us to CSIRO's latest set of lawsuits against American tech companies, this time focusing on ISPs. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile have all been sued, even though none actually make WiFi equipment. However, since they all have WiFi-enabled devices (some of which were almost certainly made by the tech companies who already paid up) CSIRO claims they need to pay up again. Apparently patent exhaustion is not a concept CSIRO considers valid.

Oddly, the article in The Age about this lawsuit seems to side almost entirely with CSIRO, quoting people who insist that companies have "no choice but to pay up" and that CSIRO has the right to demand licenses from the "entire industry." It also quotes someone who falsely claims that the only reason companies would agree to settle is if they knew they were going to lose. That's not even close to true. Lots of companies settle patent disputes because it's often cheaper to do so. And, even if they think they can win, oftentimes their shareholders don't like the uncertainty and push for a faster settlement.

The Age article also provides some more background on the patents in question, highlighting that they're based on mathematical equations created in a 1977 paper. As JohnForDummies points out, mathematical equations are not supposed to be patentable...

Filed Under: australia, csiro, patents, wifi
Companies: at&t, csiro, t-mobile, verizon wireless


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  1. icon
    Lachlan Hunt (profile), 2 Jun 2010 @ 8:16am

    "CSIRO's WiFi patent and the hundreds of millions of dollars it sucks from companies doing actual innovation"

    You're implication here seems to be that the CSIRO isn't doing any actual innovation, which is not the case at all. The CSIRO does actually do a lot of real research and innovation in a lot of areas.

    However, I do think it is extremely unethical for them to be suing other companies over patents, given that they are a tax payer funded organisation whos research should be done for everyone's benefit, not just their own.

    So, while the CSIRO is not your typical patent troll, they are certainly behaving like one with their extreme aggression used to enforce their patents.

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