Patents

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
australia, csiro, patents, wifi

Companies:
at&t, csiro, t-mobile, verizon wireless



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...

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  1. icon
    Scootah (profile), 3 Jun 2010 @ 5:17pm

    Patent Trolling vs Research Organization actually wanting to get paid

    There is a difference.

    Now see, I agree that patent trolling is bad. Patenting things that are in common usage, or things that are a logical extension of the existing products is stupid.

    But the CSIRO owns the patent on a data transformation equation that was developed to solve a previously unsolvable problem. It required very extensive facillities and extensive specialist research and a high degree of specialist insight and creativity to develop.

    If the equation had been say... the Formula for a vaccine to prevent a specific type of cancer (which incidentally, they do own a few of, and they're one of the world's leading research groups in the pursuit of others, which they make available much more reasonably then Phizer), Nobody would argue that they owned the patent, no question.

    Hell, nobody argued that this was a perfectly reasonable patent to own when It was released under license to parties who agreed to pay licensing feeds and then magically became an industry standard - with no money actually going to the patent holders - even though there was a clear agreement that there should be.

    So to clarify - a research company, who do lots of altruistic, nice things because they're a pure research group with a non profit model who use their patents to fund further research, spent a shitload of money on equipment, funded a shitload of expensive researcher time and had a very clever specialist solve a previously unsolvable problem.

    They then licensed that solution to some for profit companies who never actually paid them. Despite agreeing to do so before gaining access to the research in the first place.

    After 10 years of polite reminders and 5 years of lawsuits - they finally actually got paid. Hooray. For once, scientists actually got funding as a result of major contributions to the betterment of technology. There's no motive of shareholders trying to keep dividends and share prices high and restricting innovation.

    Now, they're looking to recover some money (which to re-iterate, will go to a non-profit, pure research group who works extensively on developing cheap medicines and making communication tools available to the very poor and releasing cheap information to try and help reduce obesity and cuddly hippy shit like that) from other companies who took the patented results of their very extensive investment that lead to solving an otherwise unsolvable problem and made a shitload of money from it.

    Still not patent trolling.

    CSIRO is a really, genuinely good organization who do a bunch of really genuinely good work and don't get nearly enough funding. Being angry at them actually expecting to get paid in this circumstance is ridiculous. Lumping them in with Patent Troll's is just offensive.

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