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. identicon
    Pseudonym, 5 Jun 2010 @ 8:09pm

    Re: Patent Trolling vs Research Organization actually wanting to get paid

    I agree that this isn't technically "patent trolling", but this lawsuit, unlike the previous lawsuit, isn't playing nice.

    The companies which made the equipment knew about the patent, licensed the patent and refused to pay up. They did something wrong.

    The ISPs, on the other hand, may well have done nothing wrong.

    Now I may be misunderstanding CSIRO's case here, but as I see it, they're going after those who, in good faith, bought pieces of equipment whose manufacturers didn't pay up the licence fees. Well, at least some of those manufacturers have paid up the licence fees now. Going after customers too is punishing the innocent and double dipping.

    Hell, I have several WiFi devices in my home which I paid for. Perhaps I should have paid a little more, had the manufacturers paid the appropriate licence fees. But I did nothing wrong! As much as I like the CSIRO, they have no business suing me because I, personally, have never infringed their patent.

    Remember when SCO went after Linux customers, such as Autozone? That's essentially identical to what's happening here. I thought it was wrong then, and I think it's wrong now.

    (Disclaimer: I work for a sister organisation of the CSIRO which holds patents that may or may not be relevant to the next generation of WiFi standards. No, we're not talking about equations here, we're talking about hardware.)

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