Australian government patent troll collects from Wi-Fi vendors

Australian government patent troll collects from Wi-Fi vendors

Summary: Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization picked up $229-million from technology companies for "violating" its Wi-Fi patent.

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Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has picked up $229-million from technology companies for their Wi-Fi patent. This time around, CSIRO hit up Lenovo, Acer, Sony, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. These companies settled with CSIRO rather than face off in the infamously pro-patent Eastern District Court of Texas, United States.

This isn't the first time CSIRO has cashed in big with its overly-broad patent. The research arm of the Australian government hit up 14 companies in 2009, including HP, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Netgear, Toshiba, 3Com, Nintendo, D-Link, and Buffalo Technologies, for over $200-million.

The CSIRO's patent name alone, Wireless LAN , gives you an idea of just how broad it is. The patent, which was approved in January 1996 doesn't expire until November 2013.

Specifically CSIRO claims that its patent covers a core method for transmitting wireless signals via orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) modulation. This breaks signals into different parts to transmit data simultaneously over different frequencies to maximize performance. It is used in the major IEEE Wi-Fi standards including 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n.

Some people see CSIRO being one of “the good guys” patent lawsuits and all. Leaving aside the software patent issue, most of them don't know that CSIRO has refused to sign a Letter of Acceptance (LoA) that would free companies from patent attacks for using the IEEE Wi-Fi standards. This was one of the direct causes for the long delays in making 802.11n a standard.

An IEEE LoA (PDF Link) is an essential part of creating a standard. Without all the needed LoAs anyone who uses a standard may be targetted, as in this case, to lawsuits (PDF Link). This, in turn, makes the standard less attractive to vendors and customers.

So, while I'm sure CSIRO does good work, never forget that they're paying for some of that work by being a patent troll and at the expense of everyone who relies on technology standards.

Related Stories:

ZDNet Australia: CSIRO nets $220m in Wi-Fi settlement

ZDNet Australia: Don't squander Wi-Fi winnings: CSIRO staff

CNET: Wi-Fi standards face patent threat

Oracle's Google Android patent lawsuit cut down to size

Linux patent defense group expands open-source protection

Topics: Enterprise Software, Legal, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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33 comments
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  • Steven, the anti everything blogger

    A legitimate patent, standing since 1996 that is the core of all wireless networking. Gee, maybe they should be rewarded for doing that good work so they can afford to keep spending money to develop more patents that actually push the industry ahead?

    Well if we listen to your stupidity, patents would be worthless, no one would invest huge sums in new technologies, and basically you'd kill the industry.

    Nice to be a blogger paid to be stupid, but if you understood business, risk, capital and the rest you might change your tune.

    Then again, there are those who would print anything to feed the followers. You fit that category.

    Why ZD doesn't can you like CW did is beyond me.
    theoldman59
    • Does NASA and every other USA government department . . .

      . . . give everything away for free? I damn well doubt it and nor should they!

      CSIRO does remarkable work. They are anything but a patent troll.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • Actually, I believe NASA can't hold patents

        As a governmental agency, I don't believe NASA can hold patents. Something about a governmental agency creating something with public funds means that anything NASA develops goes into the public domain.

        However - and this is a BIG however.

        Any contractor that develops a technology in response to a NASA contract may hold the patents and profit from them.

        Subtle difference, but a difference none the less.
        Cynical99
      • Sorry to tell you ... but the answer is YES.

        The US goverment gives away everything. The tax payers pay for the development of a hell of a lot of technology, then the companies that were paid to do the job keep the patents to the tech created.

        So the technical answer is YES. NASA and US government agencies give away technology created with tax payer money.
        wackoae
      • they are indeed patent trolls

        they behave as patent trolls trying to reap unearned profits off of concepts that were worked out by others decades ago by exploiting the broken us patent and law system, they are behaving as trolls, and they have earned the label.
        woodenspoon
    • Maybe you should...

      Maybe you should just stop reading his work! Yeah, That'll teach him a real good lesson!
      mlashinsky@...
  • give me a break...

    willing to bet that if it was a US patent, his tune would be different.

    can someone explain to me how this douche is still employed by zdnet??

    why don't you come on down to OZ and check out what a real research institute does, instead of mouthing off...

    why shouldn't the csiro fight for what they created, and rightfully patented. what part of the patent did you not understand?
    paceman007
    • you're right there

      The reality is that the US rules the english internet waves, so their opinion drowns out everyone else's. They feel the need to be right and are totally ignorant of double standards. They have their own standards. If this was a US company, e.g. Microsoft, pursuing their patents, this zdnet 'article' won't be written.
      root12
    • What part...

      ...of "overly broad" do you not understand?
      fairportfan
      • "Overly broad" is his opinion

        It's not a good basis to call the CSIRO a patent troll. It would be a patent troll if it just dreamed up vague patents for obvious things then sat back and sued everyone. In reality, it is a large organisation with world-class scientists which genuinely advances human knowledge, and they deserve the money for their invention.
        CageySee
  • Unprofessional journalism

    I was going to call this article a load of tripe, but thought I'd rather stick with the above title. Get your facts straight about patents, patent trolls, and why CSIRO is following this course of action. Please refrain from writing anything until you understand the subject matter you're reporting on.
    pappacharlie
  • check your spelling, douche...

    it's the CSIRO, not the CISRO...

    not once, not twice, but THREE times, this knob has spelled it wrong.

    why don't you talk to zdnet and tell them that i am available to write some decent articles, for much less than you're making.

    disgraceful.
    paceman007
    • Acronym error fixed

      Notification of the errors appreciated; gratuitous insult, not so much.
      David Grober
      • A question for Mr. Grober:

        Why do you keep Steven and why do blog entries selectively disappear?

        If I were a conspiracy theorist I'd say you were protecting him, but I'll just blame it on bad software. I just spent 10 minutes writing a response like this one, and it magically disappeared never to be seen again.

        So, back to the real question, why do you allow Steven to soil the pages of ZD Net with such insults as calling legitimate patent holders, "Trolls" for enforcing their rights and demanding payment they are legally entitled to?

        This goes with Steven's other current article about the demise of OS/2, blaming Microsoft for IBM's stupidity in that era.

        His blogging style (can't call him a journalist as it would be an insult to the profession) relies on half truths and out and out lies to bring the reader to a false conclusion that profit making is evil.

        His pattern is well known, write a rather bland blog, then over a couple more installments hit something completely incendiary like this one. The OS/2 article is littered with half truths, selective memories and lies designed to malign Microsoft and make IBM, the Open Source company, look better then that era of history allows.

        So, why do you allow Steven to soil your pages with half truths and lies? Through Steven I've learned to double check every article on ZD for accuracy. If you allow one massively inaccurate writer (liar) in your stable of writers it taints the rest. All of your writers suffer as does ZD's reputation.

        What say ye? Why do you keep such a writer that damages your reputation?
        Cynical99
      • the insult you mention

        is to the csiro and their being labelled 'patent trolls'.

        are you going to fix that?

        (also, as editor, i assume you were the one who should have checked this article??)
        paceman007
  • Patent Troll my butt!

    "So, while Im sure CSIRO does good work..."

    Damn right it does. Using Australian Tax payers dollars for the benefit Australia and the rest of the world.

    Before you start throwing around phrases like Patent Troll, you should really look at what the CSIRO has accomplished over 80 odd years.

    http://csiropedia.csiro.au/display/CSIROpedia/Achievements+A-Z
    A Grain of Salt
  • Flagrant disregard for humankind

    Think my comment title is outrageous?

    Stop and think about working for free, because someone like Stevie says so.

    Communist. FOSS. blinders. I'm sick and tired of the reverse greed of the FOSS henchmen. It's time to be blunt.
    sagec
  • Don't blame the CSIRO. Blame the government.

    In hindsight, the patent looks like it simply describes a wireless LAN.

    However, this was conceived back in 1995. It was ahead of its time. Nobody was thinking about Wi-Fi back then, let alone the concept of the signal bouncing between frequencies.
    Vbitrate
    • I suspect many patents are general

      as no one really understands the application the patents will impact over time. A truly new and innovative patent will by its nature be broad because the inventor is trying to describe an idea. Not a simple task.
      Cynical99
    • wrong

      a cirtin actress did long be for 1995 check your facts befor you type.rotating frequencies on torpedo's due any of you know what you are talking about. most of the time i have a good laught at the missinfomation i fine hear any more since cbs took over!
      sarai1313@...