Tuesday, 16 June 2009 10:45

CSIRO to widen Wi-Fi patent net

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Following a successful first wave of legal action to defend patents applicable to Wi-Fi networking, Australia's national science agency CSIRO is going after the rest of the industry.

Over the last few years, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation) has been engaged in legal action against a variety of companies selling Wi-Fi products, as the 802.11a, 11g and 11n standards rely on technology patented by the organisation in the mid 1990s.

Manufacturers of components embodying the CSIRO technology and companies using those components in their products declined the reasonable and non-discriminatory licences offered by the research organisation.

Not surprisingly, CSIRO turned to its lawyers.

April saw settlements with several companies including 3Com, Accton, Asus, Belkin, Buffalo Technologies, D-Link, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Netgear, Nintendo, SMC, and Toshiba.

The terms were not disclosed, but an aggregate of $1 billion was bandied around at the time and not denied by CSIRO.

According to a report in The Australian, CSIRO now has the rest of the industry in its sights.

The article quotes a CSIRO spokesperson as saying "We have licensed half the industry and now we're engaged in negotiations with the other half of the industry".

There's a suggestion that CSIRO will go after mobile phone vendors, among others. Wi-Fi is an increasingly common feature of higher-end handsets, including models from HTC, LG, Nokia, RIM (BlackBerry), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and of course Apple.

Such actions do not affect the users of Wi-Fi devices, except to the extent that prices could increase slightly to offset the licensing fees.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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