CSIRO Receives $185 Million for Wi-Fi Patent

By Craig Buckler
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wi-fi patentDid you know that the 802.11 a, g and n wireless networking protocols were patented technologies? I suspect many hardware vendors do not yet realize the implications.

In 2007, the Australian Government-funded research organization CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation) won a legal case against Japanese networking manufacturer Buffalo Technologies. The US Federal Court ruled that Buffalo had infringed US patent 5487069 which was granted to CSIRO in 1996 and covered the “exchange of large amounts of information wirelessly at high speed, within environments such as offices and homes”.

This prompted further legal shenanigans:

  1. The case was used as a basis for further infringement suits against other wi-fi hardware manufacturers including 3Com, Accton, Asus, Belkin, D-Link, Fujitsu, Marvell, Nintendo, SMC and Toshiba.
  2. A consortium of technology companies including HP, Apple, Intel, Dell, Microsoft and Netgear then brought legal cases against CSIRO in an attempt to have the patent invalidated.
  3. As the case progressed in Texas, CSIRO agreed a huge $185 million out-of-court settlement with HP, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Asus, Fujitsu, Nintendo, Toshiba, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, and 3Com.

Nigel Poole, CSIRO executive director stated:

CSIRO set out to encourage the industry to take licenses for the use of its patented technology. When that did not prove successful, we initiated legal proceedings which then led to proceedings being initiated against CSIRO.

The result earlier this year was that 14 companies settled with CSIRO under confidential terms. The revenue arising from these settlements to date is approximately $A200 million.

We believe that there are many more companies that are using CSIRO’s technology and it’s our desire to license the technology further. We would urge companies that are currently selling devices that have 802.11 a, g or n to contact CSIRO and to seek a license because we believe they are using our technology.

It appears that CSIRO have a tight legal case, but should they be able patent wireless networking as a general concept? Ultimately, is it just the lawyers who win in these cases?

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  • jphilapy

    I don’t know if they should or should not be able to patent it, but it seems it will only jack up computer prices a little.

    I am wondering about radio waves, are they patented?

    Any why is this company now making a big deal about it? Why not 10 years ago?


  • I think the CSIRO came up with some fairly new and novel ways of actually getting wireless to work. Something about communicating slowly to avoid bouncing and interference, but doing so over multiple frequencies at once to get decent bandwidth. So as I understand it they did invent the technology, not simply patent the concept.

  • Looking at the patent itself, it’s evident that CSIRO did a lot of work. However, it was never a complete specification that described 802.11.

  • FarKew

    I find it absurd that Americans think that only the US can create technology innovations & correctly patent the innovation. The CSIRO has many, many patents in a number of diverse fields. The CSIRO filed it’s patent in this regard, just as they have for biotechnology discoveries, plant & animal related science innovations, etc. Bell Labs would never get the “bashing” that the CSIRO has gotten from chauvinistic Yanks.

  • Nav

    The technology developed by CSIRO made it possible to use wireless networks in indoor environments where there is multi-pathing, i.e. the signal bounces of the walls and is received disturbed several times. If it wasn’t for this technology we might not have had wireless network indoors today. If any company thinks they can deal with the multi-pathing better than described in the CSIRO patent, they are more than welcome to do so…

  • @FarKew (yes, very clever)
    CSIRO have a valid patent and no one is (now) disputing it. However, it’s also true that patents can go a little too far in protecting an idea that was ‘obvious’ to begin with.

    I’m not sure why you’re singling out Americans either. Many of the companies against CSIRO are based in the far-East?

  • Frances Urquhardt

    I’m with you all the way Craig Buckler.

    Isn’t it strange when a non-American company actually succeeds in protecting its rights under patent law, that all the self-serving American TROLLS emerge from under rocks and out of sewers to complain about unfair treatment ?

    The shoe is now on the other foot.

    Good work CSIRO – keep it up !! To hell with those US hypocrites !!