Australian WiFi inventors win US legal battle

Apr 01, 2012
A reading room at the New York Public Library specifically for online users. Australian government science body CSIRO says it has won a multi-million-dollar legal settlement in the United States to license its patented technology that underpins the WiFi platform worldwide.

Australian government science body CSIRO said Sunday it had won a multi-million-dollar legal settlement in the United States to license its patented technology that underpins the WiFi platform worldwide.

Scientists from the agency invented the wireless (WLAN) technology that is the basis of the WiFi signal employed by computers, smartphones and other Internet-ready devices around the world.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) patented the technology in the 1990s, and has been suing companies using it without a licence since 2005.

In 2009, CSIRO recouped Aus$205 million (US$212 million) after settling cases against 14 companies. The agency said it had now been awarded a further Aus$220 million after reaching agreements with 23 more firms.

Australian Minister for Science and Research Chris Evans said in a statement that it was an important battle to win.

"It was important that Australia protect its intellectual property, and that those major companies who are selling billions of devices pay for the technology that they were using," he said.

Nigel Poole, a senior executive at CSIRO, said the agency was delighted with the result.

A banner announcing that WiFi is available hangs on a concourse at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The invention of WiFi came out of CSIRO's s pioneering work in radioastronomy.

"CSIRO's commercial and legal teams on both sides of the Pacific have worked very hard over the past several years to gain a reasonable return and I would like to pay particular tribute to them for their extraordinary efforts," he said.

"Of course, it was the inventors, led by Dr John O'Sullivan, whose brilliance in the 1990s made all this possible."

The invention came out of CSIRO's pioneering work in radioastronomy, with a team of its scientists cracking the problem of bouncing off surfaces indoors, causing an echo that distorts the signal.

They overcame it by building a fast chip that could transmit a signal while reducing the echo, beating many of the major around the world that were trying to solve the same issue.

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Au-Pu
5 / 5 (8) Apr 01, 2012
So much of the wealth generated by the modern technology industry goes to undeserving pirates. It is time that at least one of the actual inventors obtains the rewards for their ingenuity.
It also illustrates how one area of science can cross fertilise another.
Who would have thought that research into Radio Astronomy would end up in almost every ones hands.
We need more results like this.
BradynStanaway
3.8 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
It's amazing how short-sightedness in the public understanding of science for reducing budgets can be seen to pay of years later. As Au-Pu mentioned, "Who would have thought that research into Radio Astronomy would end up in almost every ones hands." -- The same thing happened with MRI machines.

Society needs to be more scientifically literate, and long-sighted when it comes to things.

On a side note: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
Cynical1
2.7 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
I think this underpins the "dark side" of capitalism(acquisition and retention of energy resources). Larger entities have the resources to scavenge up "energy" when and where they find it. Rarely does it stay with the actual originator, due to "capitalism" as practiced. It is gratifying to see that "energy" wrested back from a "scavenging agency" and returned to the originator.
bertibus
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
@Cynical1 Nothing to do with capitalism. A thief is a thief, and they exist in any given system. Glad to see that CSIRO are reaping the appropriate rewards; not only because they deserve it, but also because they're likely to re-invest the money into more research.
210
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
@EVERYONE...there is abit more to it.

If you, any of us, invented something today, this very day to be specific, and started doing the patent searches for both validity and uniqueness and conflict with prior works/art...the chances of being sued for 'conflict' or patent infringement these days, or going forward about a year, which is the amount of time an individual would most likely need; Or 6 to 8 months if you used a firm or legal search outfit (And, I say nothing about the money you would need in EITHER case...) Your chances of being sued or facing injunction do NOT go down enough to justify the time or the money 2 search! This is especially true in biotech, biopharmaceuticals, recombinant DNA work for medicinals, I lithography, just about anywhere big money is invested, or going, even, new breeds of flowers, etc, etc, etc... I've even seen pharmaceuticals try to collaborate once they realized they were on a conflict path and head it off. The 'board members' then launched a -cont-
210
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
legal challenge against the management to force them to sue! As soon as clinical trials started they broke the agreement through legal strong-arming and, well, when all was said and done, they had to add another 45 million dollars to the cost of R&D to cover legal costs that did not have to happen. IS every legal challenge like this? NO! But the areas where these legal wranglings are taking place have the potential to cripple advancement of whole cultures even societies and deny humanity much needed advance. As we become more advanced, our advances depend on advances..! The US wants to introduce radical advances in its patent process to streamline and prove new ideas, BUT, brilliant people are EVERYWHERE and the patent tools they have may not be advanced for decades, if then. Conflict becomes unavoidable. We should not over-simplify our critique by blaming greed alone, or capitalism, etc, alone. Our knowledge base is growing Bcause Genius does not care if Joe Blow in his basement-
210
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 01, 2012
Invents something that revolutionizes the future of humanity, call it luck, serendip, fortune, odds, or God, whatever it is, it LOVES the individual inventor, and garages and basements!!! Whereas, the base nature of our patent processes worldwide (Even if not the case IN THIS PARTICULAR story) is cutting individual initiative off at the crossroads of coming out of the garage and basements and LABS for that matter, with corporate legal wrangling and, or a patent mess whose gridlocked immobility is going to become a life threatening hindrance.
Ya, know, the UN is pretty useless these days, ...what am I thinkin'...that the UN could help this process and address issues, maybe not the commerce/machinery, but the issues, of getting certified knowledge to the masses...damn. Anything that could fix the UN would get held up in litigation for a billion years! The UN needs an enema AND a laxative...

word-to-ya-muthas
ab3a
4 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
The sad part of this issue is that I can pull out an ARRL handbook from the 1980s that describes spread spectrum techniques very well. I know many people in the 1980s who experimented with both frequency hopping and direct sequence spread spectrum methods.

This patent is very much like the patents that Lee DeForest threw at the wall after he stumbled across his invention of the Triode. DeForest got all the credit, but others, like Armstrong, actually did the work.

In the case of spread spectrum, I know many who worked on it long before CSIRO filed their patent. The concepts were mostly secret developments.

Some ideas are simply ready to launch. Both Colossus and ENIAC were developed largely independently, and it is silly to assign a notion that this or that person was first and therefore gets all the rights thereof.

The concepts behind patent law need to be reworked. There are too many instances like this that are unfair to everyone.
tekram
5 / 5 (3) Apr 01, 2012
So much of the wealth generated by the modern technology industry goes to undeserving pirates...
You mean pirates like Apple? who used Marvell's WiFi chip in the original Apple iPhone?
BloodSpill
4.2 / 5 (6) Apr 01, 2012
While the West strangles itself in patents and suing over them, guess who doesn't care?

China. The biggest pirates will obtain all these technologies, pay nothing for them, and use them to help themselves and their dodgy allies.

I think it will be interesting going forward to see how long the West can say it's in front in, say, genetic/medicinal developments.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.7 / 5 (45) Apr 01, 2012
Excellent. More power to them. China should not, nor should anyone, respect the concept of intellectual property as it is an illegitimate concept that exists only to enslave the people and enrich corporations who claim those special rights that IP gives them.

"China. The biggest pirates will obtain all these technologies, pay nothing for them, and use them to help themselves and their dodgy allies." - BloodSpill
MIBO
3.6 / 5 (9) Apr 01, 2012
The patent system is worse than people realize. If you search for patents then you risk being charged with wilful infringement rather than accidental infringement, and the damages awarded are puntive. Ignorance is not innocence, but if they can prove you were aware of their patent then they can get a lot more money if they prove you infringed it, even if you believed you didn't.
And the decision on infringement is made by people who have NO KNOWLEDGE about the technology, so it's a risk not worth taking. It's less risk to just ignore other peoples patents and hope that you don't infringe any.
big companies eventually just agree to trade patents as it's cheaper than suing each other ( usually anyway ), and smaller companies and individuals cannot afford the costs of prosecuting them anwyay.
MIBO
3.4 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
An the PTO is a joke, I just had an examiner raise an objection about one of my applications as the 'lines on the diagram were not bold enugh to fax / photocopy well'. They were Matlab plots, which mean a great deal to somebody skilled in the art.
In my industry anybody capable of using my IP would have millions of dollars invested in IT equipment, but I have to be able to FAX them a photocopy of the patent. It's ridiculous, but costs a lot of money to manually re-draw diagrams in wax crayon so that patent lawyers / judges can read them.
the whole system needs a major overhaul, bringing it into the 21st century, I think it's about 200 years out of date at the moment and totally unfit for purpose.
MIBO
3.4 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
I see Vendar Decarian doesn't value IP, in my experience people that don't value IP take that attitude because they are incapable of original thought.
If I spend thousands of hours inventing something I deserve to be rewarded for it.
Vendar I think it's not IP that's illegitimate, try looking in the mirror.
kaasinees
0.6 / 5 (29) Apr 01, 2012
I see Vendar Decarian doesn't value IP

I suggest you pay everyone who ever contributed to computers, electricity housing construction etcetc. You are infringing their IP. Without it you would never have had your own "IP", you would be just a dumb monkey not even knowing how to use a stick to poke ants for food.

See how much sense that makes? It doesnt.
MIBO
3.4 / 5 (8) Apr 01, 2012
kaasinees, you clearly don't understand the concept of IP at all.

By paying for my computers, electricity, education etc I am paying for the IP that I'm using, since the inventors of the IP make their money through sale of the end equipment. The concept of IP protection is to ensure that the inventors of IP get rewarded by being able to sell their IP ( either as products ot IP licenses), but if people can simply copy and mass produce a product that I spent millions developing then why would I bother even getting out of bed.
RealScience
4.2 / 5 (9) Apr 01, 2012
@MIBO - Spot on with your comment on willful infringement causing people not to read patents. That is a serious flaw with the current system because the purpose of patents it to encourage the sharing of knowledge by offering the inventor(s) a limited-time monopoly on commercialization if they share the knowledge openly (patent mean 'open').
However fixing it is not obvious because there should be some penalty for people who knowingly try to rip off an inventor, and it is also not reasonable to REQUIRE people/companies to read the mountains of patents that are out there in many fields.
It's the one big flaw in the patent system that I don't see a logical fix for. Do you have any suggestions?

Re: Vendicar - he is usually correct on technical issues, but on social issues he's pretty socialistic. And on a personal level he tends to attack the commenter rather than dispute the comment (something you should avoid, too).
RealScience
3.3 / 5 (4) Apr 01, 2012
@kaasinees - patents only last for 20 years from date of filing, and when one buys a computer the royalties for any valid patents embodied in it should (and to some extent actually are) be covered it the cost.

And many of the advances were made by people counting on making a living from their work (including me - I would not be able to have a career as an inventor without patents).

Like so many other legal trade-offs, the patent system is supposed to be set up for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. That it currently has flaws does not invalidate the principles behind patents, it just highlights the need for improvement.

210
3 / 5 (8) Apr 01, 2012
@MIBO
Re: Vendicar - he is usually correct on technical issues, but on social issues he's pretty socialistic. And on a personal level he tends to attack the commenter rather than dispute the comment (something you should avoid, too).

He is a technical bloody GENIUS, but a social, interpersonal (by the strict definition of the word) 'idiot'. That is why I keep givin' em discounts on all the video games and electronics in the store: I am hoping, somewhere in one of those games, he will find someone he likes and try to bond/mate. Some have told me, if my idea works, the Borg will live...ohhh damn...

word-

Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (39) Apr 01, 2012
If you spend thousands of hours digging a hole, you also deserve to be rewarded for it.

Oh wait... No you don't.

Effort has never necessitated reward. Just ask any real inventor.

"If I spend thousands of hours inventing something I deserve to be rewarded for it." - MIBO
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (39) Apr 01, 2012
The failure of current patent system stems from the decision by the Reagan Administration to drop patent review from the patent process.

With that moronic move, any damn stupid thing can be patented. Including the idea of selecting emoticons from a menu. '(8-|)

Filth.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (41) Apr 01, 2012
The proper correction to the current Patent Fiasco created by the Reagan Administration is to simply exempt all not for profit use from patent enforcement.

If you don't profit from it, then you can do whatever you damn well please.

But if you are running a business then you have to abide by the patent system.

This maximizes individual Liberty while still allowing the Corporations to screw each other over for violating childish patents.

You will never find a Libertarian or Conservative agreeing with this position since they are more interested in corporate freedom that advances the enslavement of individuals.
Grallen
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2012
Seriously? half a billion dollars for extrapolation of LAN communication onto an already established wireless connection?

That was an obvious next step coupled with a few months of work.

This is patent trolling.
RealScience
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
@Vendicar - Profit depends on how well you run a business. If you say 'all non-commercial use', then that's almost what the patent law says already - you can make a patented item for research purposes, you just can't sell it.

I agree with you on patent review.
Another big problem is that the examiners rely too much on the patent database, which is useless in new fields (such as software and business methods) because at the start there is nothing in it. Good examiners go beyond that and at least search academic journals, but many patent examiners are so overworked that they don't have time to.
RealScience
3 / 5 (4) Apr 01, 2012
If you spend thousands of hours digging a hole, you also deserve to be rewarded for it.

Oh wait... No you don't.

Effort has never necessitated reward. Just ask any real inventor.

"If I spend thousands of hours inventing something I deserve to be rewarded for it." - MIBO


Effort at innovation shouldn't be rewarded, but success at innovation should be, and patents are a part of that.
If we wanted holes (as opposed to published innovations) then we should reward people for digging them.

And I am an inventor, with over 30 U.S. patents issued so far.
You are close to correct - I would still invent without reward. But my inventions would never become known because I'd be too busy having fun inventing the next thing to do all the work to share the previous invention with the world if I weren't paid for it, and I wouldn't be paid for it without patents.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 01, 2012
Why shouldn't CSIRO donate their work to the world?
'Progressives' demand drug companies give up intellectual property rights. Why shouldn't every other technology company or government lab do the same?
Cynical1
5 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2012
We DO reward people for digging holes. Miners, for example.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (39) Apr 01, 2012

"Why shouldn't CSIRO donate their work to the world?" - RyggTard

They already have.

The technique is now common knowledge and that will never be undone.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (37) Apr 01, 2012
Please go into your back yard and dig a big hole.

Society will reward you for doing so.

Do it.

Do it now.

"We DO reward people for digging holes. Miners, for example." - Cynical
Cynical1
5 / 5 (3) Apr 01, 2012
Ven,
Interestingly enough, I DID do that - it's now a swimming pool. My reward for success at what I do.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (37) Apr 02, 2012
No one said that you couldn't be rewarded by your own work. It is after all the primary driver in innovation.

Enjoy.

MIBO
2.8 / 5 (5) Apr 02, 2012
perhaps Vendicar would like to share with us the details of his inventions, with sufficient detail that a person "skilled in the art" can utilize them.
Then we can all benefit from his hard work.
StarGazer2011
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 02, 2012
Just for the record, the induvidual who invented the technology recieved no money from it. He was working for the CSIRO at the time and even though it was an original idea, he gets nothing.
Bog_Mire
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
side note & little known fact - in the mid 1970's CSIRO research scientists actually developed the worlds first Lithium Battery. The conservative government at the time was uninterested in investing more "dead money" into developing the technology further and the Japanese ended up getting it for next to zip. The rest is history.
MIBO
3 / 5 (2) Apr 02, 2012
StarGazer, you also don't seem to understand.
The guy who invented the technology was working for..., therefore he received a salary and was thus rewarded for his efforts.
Most inventions are owned by the company employing the inventor, assignment of rights is a normal part of any employment contract. Most good employers also offer incentive schemes for innovation.
But CSIRO also bore the costs of developing the technology which would not be insignificant, so it is right that they are the owners of the IP.
Bog_Mire
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
CSRIO, a tiny R&D funded by a tiny country has always punched way above its weight. Look at what can happen with pure, unfettered unbiased scientific research funded by government. Should be a global blueprint.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Apr 02, 2012
CSRIO, a tiny R&D funded by a tiny country has always punched way above its weight. Look at what can happen with pure, unfettered unbiased scientific research funded by government. Should be a global blueprint.

Why do they demand a patent? Will they return the profits to the taxpayers?
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
"perhaps Vendicar would like to share with us the details of his inventions" - MIBO

Virtually every line of code I have written is public domain and I have placed no restrictions on it's use.
Bog_Mire
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
Rygg, I assume you read the article and the post I made. Note "government funded". The CSIRO is not a private commercial entity. So your question is a little baffling. As a taxpayer funded organisation with no commercial sponsorship, of course the patent windfall will go back into its research and development budget - meaning less tax payer input. Or even better a maintained taxpayer input with the windfall on top. Win win. If you try real hard and open your other eye you may be able to see the benefit of such an organisation sponsored by the peoples tax dollar. But I am not holding my breath.....
RealScience
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012

Virtually every line of code I have written is public domain and I have placed no restrictions on it's use.

@Vendicar - then how do you make a living? Do you have a day job, or is being a coder your profession?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
Rygg, I assume you read the article and the post I made. Note "government funded". The CSIRO is not a private commercial entity. So your question is a little baffling. As a taxpayer funded organisation with no commercial sponsorship, of course the patent windfall will go back into its research and development budget - meaning less tax payer input. Or even better a maintained taxpayer input with the windfall on top. Win win. If you try real hard and open your other eye you may be able to see the benefit of such an organisation sponsored by the peoples tax dollar. But I am not holding my breath.....

So its OK for 'business' like CSIRO to compete with stolen funds for innovation while a private business must work to earn a profit to invest in innovation?
bluehigh
2 / 5 (4) Apr 03, 2012
of course the patent windfall will go back into its research and development budget


The original ASIC implementation of the algorithm was done by AWA Microelectronics in a deal that funneled most future income into the private company. I could tell you the whole inside story but I like my work and pineapples.

bluehigh
2 / 5 (4) Apr 03, 2012
That is Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) for those not familiar with our lingo. It was a politically strategic arrangement to keep our only Aussie chip fabricator in business (along with some other gov funding for products yet to see the light of day).
Bog_Mire
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
So its OK for 'business' like CSIRO to compete with stolen funds for innovation while a private business must work to earn a profit to invest in innovation?

Uhh Rygg, you inserted the word "business" in describing CSIRO. Can you not read or comprehend plain written English man??!!
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
As a taxpayer funded organisation with no commercial sponsorship


You are misinformed. The CSIRO actively promotes its services for payment. For example, AGL (a gas and electricity supplier) currently funds research for a product of which I have been actively involved. The CSIRO is most certainly a business underwritten by the Gov with taxpayers money for reasons of national security.
Cynical1
not rated yet Apr 04, 2012
Bog n Blue,
When 1st reading the article, I concluded it was a private org. Interesting to find it was not. Even with government funding it must still compete with the more-moneyed, less public-minded corporations that appear to run the government (at least, here in the US). I find this sort of appealing in that, yes, it is funded by the taxpayer and, yes, the returns are to the taxpayer (in a roundabout way).
Vendicar_Decarian
0 / 5 (35) Apr 04, 2012
"Vendicar - then how do you make a living?" - RealScience

I bring order to chaos, and truth to the truthless and sometimes toothless.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 04, 2012
The fact is, an arm of the Australian Government created what is now known as spread spectrum "wifi". Just like the UK's BBC venture was responsible for creating the original ARM microprocessor, which is now found in virtually every telephone in existence, and which will eventually push the sloppy x86 architecture into the dust bin of history.

"So its OK for 'business' like CSIRO to compete with stolen funds for innovation while a private business must work to earn a profit to invest in innovation?" - RyggTard

Poor RyggTard. He just loves to call the taxes he willingly pays to government "stolen funds".

If he doesn't want to pay them, he can just leave his country, and renounce his citizenship. Taxes are the price he is required to pay to take part American Society and receive the benefits that it provides.

If he feels that the taxes outweigh the benefits, why doesn't he just leave?

RealScience
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
"Vendicar - then how do you make a living?" - RealScience

I bring order to chaos, and truth to the truthless and sometimes toothless.


I was serious - you're a smart guy, and I was wondering if you had some trick for getting paid for putting your code in the public domain.
I'd love to be able to just invent, publish and not worry about making it a day job.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2012
"Apple Computer, chip maker VLSI Technology and British computer vendor Acorn Computers announced Tuesday that they had formed a joint venture company to design and market computer chips based on reduced instruction set computing (RISC) technology."
"Acorn, which is 80% owned by the Italian computer giant Olivetti, has over the past five years developed a series of RISC microprocessors--or computers-on-a-chip--primarily for use in its own personal computer products. "
http://articles.l...rm-chips
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2012
the returns are to the taxpayer (in a roundabout way).


The returns to the Gov are much less than the investment required. Financially, its a loss making venture. However, as an asset for scientific research it is worth ever dollar. I like money showers.

As for competitors from -
more-moneyed, less public-minded corporations
- maybe in the US but the CSIRO does not have any significant competition in Australia.

Even a couple of hundred million in royalties from WiFi patents would barely cover 3 months operating costs although maybe I could get a new Gov car and another lab assistant. Barry our divisions senior physicist lets his glasses slide down his nose and looks at me expressionless for just a moment. These things mean nothing to him but he too likes pineapples.

Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 05, 2012
"I was serious - you're a smart guy, and I was wondering if you had some trick for getting paid for putting your code in the public domain." - RealScience

I don't get paid for coding. But most Linux developers who work for companies who are adding to the Linux kernel are paid for their work, and it is PD.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2012
The returns to the Gov are much less than the investment required.

What would be the returns from a private, profit seeking business with that investment?
Socialists can't understand the wealth that was lost when the govt takes the 'investments'.
As socialist as the US is, they know they can't develop and market products well and license technology developed by govt agencies for govt needs.