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HP Patents The Courts Wireless Networking Hardware

CSIRO Wins Wi-Fi Settlement From HP 125

Posted by timothy
from the not-some-low-life-patent-troll-at-least dept.
suolumark writes "The CSIRO has won what could be a landmark settlement from Hewlett Packard over the use of patented wireless technology. The settlement ended HP's involvement in a four-year lawsuit brought by the CSIRO on a group of technology companies, in which the organisation was seeking royalties for wi-fi technology that is used extensively on laptops and computers worldwide. CSIRO spokesman Luw Morgan earlier said legal action was continuing against 13 companies: Intel, Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, 3-Com, Buffalo, Microsoft and Nintendo."
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CSIRO Wins Wi-Fi Settlement From HP

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  • What we need (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Vombatus (777631)
    What we need is for the Australian Government to adequately fund CSIRO so they do not have to raise money via lawsuits.

    The clever country indeed.

    • Re:What we need (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ross.w (87751) <rwonderley@g m a i l.com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:00PM (#27439939) Journal

      Why should the Australian Government fund research that benefits US, japanese and Korean companies?

      These guys are not patent trolls. they are set up to do research and solve problems.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by symbolset (646467)

        Solve problems... like "How do we prevent the wireless revolution by patent-trolling the standards committees"?

        Gee, that's a useful skill. They should probably get with the DRAM committees and see if they can extend their work to the innovation of preventing new memory technologies, or partner with Intel on the prevention of higher resolution lithography. You know, for the social good that would arise from bringing a screaming halt to technological progress.

        • Re:What we need (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cloricus (691063) on Friday April 03, 2009 @12:03AM (#27440815)
          So it is okay for American based patent trolls to do this completely unchecked and ignored by your population at large for completely frivolous patents but when another country that has a legitimate patent comes a long wanting what is rightfully theirs BY YOUR BROKEN SYSTEM they are the true villains. Home of the brave indeed.

          (Not a troll but with a majority American audience I'll bet I'll have the +5 troll achievement in no time with this opinion.)
          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by xorsyst (1279232)
            There's a +5 troll achievement? Cool. PS - you all suck.
          • by Raenex (947668)

            So it is okay for American based patent trolls to do this

            Who said it was ok? Certainly not the parent you are replying to.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Dishevel (1105119)
            Either you are an idiot, or you have never read /.

            This patent trolling crap is bitched about more here than Microsoft is.

          • it is a broken system... meant at one time to protect peoples ability to make a living, but now it simply limits societies ability to evolve humanly, as well as our ability to use all our most brilliant ideas to be greatest benefit of mankind.

            broken is an understatement.

        • ... like "How do we prevent the wireless revolution by patent-trolling the standards committees"?

          Hmmm. That's beside the point. If HP, Intel and all the other guys in the band expect any credibility when others step on their patents, they have to be prepared to fork out when they step on someone else's patent. The fact that the technology is widely used doesn't exempt them.

          If we have to have a patent system at all, it has to apply to everybody. It is not sufficient to just say "I'm not going to pay, so t
        • Re:What we need (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 03, 2009 @12:59AM (#27441121)

          So you'd prefer it to be the other way? CSIRO getting screwed by big companies, like it has in the past.

          I say good on them, they need the funding. I know a few CSIRO scientists and they are always getting dicked with pay and contracts because the organisation keeps getting dicked out of funds.

          If it was patent trolling they'd have just submitted the patent rather than showing proof of concept and actually developing the technology.

          Learn what patent-trolling is before you troll yourself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by z0idberg (888892)

          I thought the modus operandi of a patent troll was to go after the little fish who either didnt have the money to defend themselves so settled out of court, or who tried to defend themselves and lost so setting s precedent with which to go after the big fish with.

          Looks like the CSIRO thought they had a strong case and went after the big boys straight off and the courts agreed with them. I'm sure HP threw everything they had at them, which your garden variety patent troll wouldn't survive.

          • by symbolset (646467)

            So you've never heard of Rambus? What about the GIF patents? There is no new technology ever that doesn't have some obstructionist jerk trying to overmilk the obvious by getting getting broad patents on every possible course of development. If we don't stop this hopelessly broken patent system the pace of progress will grind to a halt.

        • They are going after big companies like HP, if HP settles it means it's legitimate.

          • No, if HP settles it could also mean that HP decided making them STFU and GTFO was worth whatever they paid in the settlement, and they can use that against the others they are suing.

            Doesn't in any way imply legitimacy (or illegitimacy)

          • Sometimes when a big company settles like this, it is to keep the technology within a pool of deep pocket players and out of the hands of small players that cannot pony up huge amounts up front during their startup phase. Apple computer paid off a company recently that had a patent on navigating music databases and I believe Microsoft did also, and maybe Creative. The result is that anyone wanting to bring out a music device has to pay the huge royalty just to get started. This whole patent thing and the se
        • Re:What we need (Score:5, Insightful)

          by batkiwi (137781) on Friday April 03, 2009 @01:55AM (#27441423)

          Do patent trolls:
          -disclose their patents ahead of time in the working group
          -agree to let their patents be used in the standard as long as compensation is paid
          -contact the infringing companies immediatly after the standard was formed, continuing for 10 years, getting the cold shoulder, before FINALLY suing them

          Oh.. wait... you mean you couldn't even RTFA, let alone do 2 minutes of googling about the situation?

        • RTFA and learn what the CSIRO is and what actually happened.

          Others below have refuted your ill informed claims in far greater detail than I can ever bother to muster.

          American firms acting like they're above everybody else and stealing other people's research with the left hand whilst they shaft everybody else with the right (with the help of their govt who shove 'free' trade agreements down the throats of every other govt that do wonderful things like extend your wonderfully fair DCMA act to our legal domai

          • If the patent was some innovative, creative discovery. But it's not. [slashdot.org] It rehashes technology that was a decade old before the ink hit the paper. Somebody's going to figure out that their claims [uspto.gov] (Thanks, Tick-tock-atona [slashdot.org]) are derived from prior art based on cellular packet radio technologies from the late 1970's and then this will be over. Just because you get the clerks at the patent office to sign off on your patent doesn't mean that you've won the golden ticket to jerking everybody around. The whole wo

      • And all over the world, plans to extend internet access to the world's poorer regions are shelved at the prospect of the additional cost of yet another layer of royalty payments...
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by connect4 (209782)

      Flamebait? This is the most insightful comment here

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Utterly spot on.

      Mark my words, what will actually happen is that the government funding for CSIRO will actually *decrease* in proportion to the cash value of this (and any other) settlements for this case.

    • Re:What we need (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:08PM (#27440453)

      They are not 'raising money via lawsuits'. The way you say that makes it sound like it was part of their business model. That is completely false.

      Other companies *agreed to pay* royalties to license the technology when the standard was being ratified.

      Then, the other companies basically said: "agreed to pay? agreed to pay what? what is this agreed to pay you are referring to? I don't see anyone named 'agreed to pay' around here, perhaps you are lost?"

      The companies took the tech and didn't pay anything, in blatant violation of the terms of the agreement, and are now being sued as the CSIRO's last recourse.

      The CSIRO has been negotiating with these companies for YEARS trying to get the royalties to which they are entitled. The companies were given ample time to come good without getting the courts involved.

      Apparently though, American companies only feel as though they should pay royalties for IP from other American companies, and everyone else can get stuffed.

      Well, who's stuffed now?

      I dislike the patent system as much as anyone, but this is an organisation who is using it in an honest fashion, for its intended purpose - to encourage innovation and actually develop useful products with their patents. Other companies tried to take the technology and not pay anything, and are now being forced to pay up.

      This is one case where the patent system truly is working as it should.

      • Apparently though, American companies only feel as though they should pay royalties for IP from other American companies, and everyone else can get stuffed.

        In light of another story, would it make sense to expect them to only want IP royalties from American consumers of the IP, then? That is, if you're outside the USA, you're free to pirate RIAA music and MPAA movies?

        They sure have a sense of justice, don't they?

      • by Genda (560240)

        I'm deeply offended, how dare you say such a thing!!! American companies will dick one another just as fast and easily as they'd dick foreign companies. We don't play favorites in the United States, we dick all with wild abandon and without the slightest hint of .

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @08:40PM (#27439187) Journal
    I liked these guys much better when they stuck to making the ultimate desk toy, of science. [csiro.au]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @08:48PM (#27439291)

    Remember, folks: the CSIRO is fundamentally a research institution, first and foremost. They develop technologies, patent them, and then license the patents out to the manufacturing companies. Income from the patent royalties goes towards further research work.

    They've done some genuinely fantastic work in a wide range of areas. Polymer banknotes [wikipedia.org] are one of their products. Agricultural research. Marine sciences. They cover a very broad base, and are very much respected in Australia for the work they do.

    Personally? I hope the CSIRO wins these battles. At least with this mob, I know the money will be going to further R&D, rather than flowing to the coffers of people who don't do anything productive for society (as happens with "real" patent trolls.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054)

      Remember folks that this is a government funded and sponsored organization.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSIRO [wikipedia.org]

      The research is largely paid for by the Australian tax payer, and the ownership of the fruits of their labor should also rest there, rather than beinb plowed back into building an ivory tower that suffers from out of control growth in the face of shrinking budgets,

      In the US we are a little suspect of agencies like this, (although we do have some).

      We tend to prefer the NASA, DARPA, TVA model of public

      • I suppose that's the difference between Australian and American patent law. If patent law is like copyright law in the following regard, a government institution can not hold a copyright, so they might be exempt from holding patents as well (which is why NASA has been such a boon, any space technologies are immediately released to the public).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Well, gee, unlike America we don't have untold billions to 'waste' on research, so we went a different route. To think that American corporations would ignore patents because American law might allow you to do so in these circumstances is disgusting; your corporations expect everyone else to acknowledge their IP and now they would blatantly disregard someone else's? Hypocrisy and greed, not that I've come to expect anything else from American companies.

          • by darkuncle (4925)

            Hypocrisy and greed, not that I've come to expect anything else from American companies.

            s/American//

            FTFY.

          • by hdon (1104251)

            your corporations expect everyone else to acknowledge their IP and now they would blatantly disregard someone else's? Hypocrisy and greed, not that I've come to expect anything else from American companies.

            Although I believe you would not have began your comment had you fully understood the poster to whom you were replying, I feel that where your comment ended up going is more interesting, and here is a follow-up:

            I think some technologies simply work better for society when they are not encumbered by intellectual property. Why then don't governments ever purchase patents from private sector researchers on behalf of the public? In such a scenario, would it make sense to export those patents to members of other

        • by jank1887 (815982) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:50PM (#27439845)

          "If patent law is like copyright law in the following regard..."

          http://www.google.com/patents?q=assignee%3A+united+states+of+america [google.com]

          it's not. working at a government R&D lab, I can assure you we are encouraged to both publish and patent as much as we are able. Now, we have a nice filter in place to clamp down on patent applications that wouldn't even be worth the taxpayer dollars to maintain. But, we have a tech transfer office that actively pursues licensing patents, and will go after contractors that patent things that were invented under government contract. The gov't generally doesn't manufacture things, but right now the general notion is that if we've paid for technology once, we shouldn't have to pay to use it later if someone else patents it, and licensing fees can help recoup R&D expenditure. They also have a really nice dividend sharing structure with the inventors, which is rare in industry.

        • by nog_lorp (896553)

          Narp, I thought this too. But NASA holds many patents, and has auctioned some off in the past.

      • Sure, some of that data ends up in the hands of the average person, but it seems to be increasingly funding in "black box" projects where, while the public gets a shiny new spacecraft, the specs are tied up in "national security" or other laws effectively removing a lot of the benefit.
        • by TheKidWho (705796)

          The "specs" of a spacecraft are rather useless unless you plan on building one... what's important is the research done.

      • by Repton (60818) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:37PM (#27439761) Homepage

        ..which is why they should allow Australian taxpayer-owned companies like HP to use their tech for free!

        Wait...

      • by Pseudonym (62607)

        The research is largely paid for by the Australian tax payer [...]

        If by "largely", you mean 60%, that's correct. Some 40% of the CSIRO budget comes from sales (e.g. publishing), commercial spinoffs, public-private partnerships and royalties.

        • by reason (39714)

          A lot of that 40% actually comes from the Australian taxpayer indirectly. Some divisions get 40% of their funding from external contracts, but the contracts are with other (state and federal) government agencies.

    • by kzieli (1355557)

      Yes and no. The question is how did these patents get into the 802.11 standard. And is this a legitimate patent or a blatantly obvious one?

      To say well its OK for a government funded body to base their business model on licensing patents But its not OK for a private company to do so is a double standard. Basically saying the motive justifies the act.

      To my mind the motive does not excuse the act. If patent trolling, especially on standards, is wrong then it is wrong on all cases.

      The only mitigating fact

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And that the relevant commitee did this on the expectation that the CSIRO would not enforce their patent.

        Which apparently is exactly what happened. [theregister.co.uk]

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by kelnos (564113)
          The thing I find interesting about that article is that it notes that the IEEE will not ratify a standard until all orgs with patents relating to the standard commit to not suing people who implement the standard.

          So apparently the fault here can be shared: CSIRO hasn't been playing ball with the normal IEEE standardisation process.

          Having said that, it still seems pretty risky for the named companies to implement the standard, knowing that they weren't immune from patent suits.

          The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:29PM (#27439659)

        During the Wi-Fi standardisation, CSIRO's patented IP was knowingly included in the standard. CSIRO stated that they would be happy for this to happen, provided they could collect a small royalty on Wi-Fi hardware. Everyone seemed happy with this, and the standardisation occured.

        Then manufacturers started producing hardware without paying CSIRO. Over the next few years, CSIRO repeatedly sent letters requesting royalties. They didn't have much luck.

        In the end, after years of negotiation, they decided court action was required. This was a big step, since it required them to set aside a significant proportion of their budget to pay for legal costs.

        They have a valid claim, and they've been more than reasonable.

        • by hdon (1104251)

          During the Wi-Fi standardisation, CSIRO's patented IP was knowingly included in the standard. CSIRO stated that they would be happy for this to happen, provided they could collect a small royalty on Wi-Fi hardware.

          Will the IEEE really ratify a standard that might get you sued? Some earlier poster linked to an article on 802.11n [theregister.co.uk] that says no.

    • by russotto (537200) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:44PM (#27439793) Journal

      Remember, folks: the CSIRO is fundamentally a research institution, first and foremost. They develop technologies, patent them, and then license the patents out to the manufacturing companies. Income from the patent royalties goes towards further research work.

      Unfortunately the patent they won here was for OFDM. Which was developed in the 1960s. Their patent claims were specifically limited to applications above 10GHz, but somehow or another they managed to prevail in court against manufacturers making devices in the 2-6 Ghz range. It's 100% BS.

      • Unfortunately the patent they won here was for OFDM. Which was developed in the 1960s. Their patent claims were specifically limited to applications above 10GHz, but somehow or another they managed to prevail in court against manufacturers making devices in the 2-6 Ghz range. It's 100% BS.

        I just read the first claim and I'm not sure it's that restrictive.
        It says:

        A wireless LAN comprising: ...
        each said transceiver being operable to transmit and receive data at radio frequencies in excess of 10 GHz,

        To me that says it 'can be' be operated in excess of 10GHz not 'it must be', but I guess what it says depends on which patent lawyer you speak t

  • by femto (459605) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:10PM (#27439479) Homepage

    They are in the position of having made a contribution to research program on which CSIRO was a collaborator, and are now being asked to pony up to use the patent. To quote from the research paper [jwdalton.com]:

    Acknowledgments

    The CSIRO Systems and Devices Hardware Program and the Hewlett-Packard External Research Grants Program funded Macquarie University research on the WLAN project from 1991-1996 and 1995-1996 respectively.

    The patent (USPTO 5487069) was filed on November 23, 1993 and issued on January 23, 1996. HP contributed funding from 1995-1996, so I guess it can be claimed that they didn't contribute to the patent, but it's still got to leave a bad taste in the mouth. The point is that HP might be a special case and not indicative of the treatment other defendants might get. I'd be intrigued to know what Macquarie University's contribution was from 1991 to November 23, 1993 (which was before my time on the project).

    (Yes, I'm one of the authors on the paper.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Macquarie University involvement was led by Dave Skellern, and in 1993-1994 was based out of the Department of Research Electronics. They heavily contributed to the 802.11 standard.

      This group incorporated as Radiata, and produced (one of?) the first 802.11a chipsets, the R-M11a. Radiata was acquired by Cisco in November 2000, for US$250M.

      I worked in MQU DRE between 1993-94, and my recollection is that most of the funding came from CSIRO at the time. But it has been a long, long time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are correct. I worked at CSIRO at that time - joining shortly after the patent was applied for. I knew all the people involved (two are still friends of mine) and they are a very good bunch of people. The guy at CSIRO driving the litigation is a bit of a dick though, and not well thought of, and I think that raises a few eyebrows around the place.

        Also, Skellern is a smart guy, but a real little operator. I remember I did a whole lot of multipath channel simulation work, which I happily shared with his g

  • what, no fruit? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @09:11PM (#27439491) Homepage Journal

    Intel, Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, 3-Com, Buffalo, Microsoft and Nintendo."

    Notice one missing? What happened there? (did they actually license rather than "borrow without permission"?)

    Actually I suppose I don't see Compaq anywhere in there either. Any other big names I'm overlooking?

    • If you're meaning Apple, then perhaps it's indicative of only companies that produce wifi chipsets. Sure, Apple hardware has wifi technology in their computers but doesn't manufacture, per se, the wifi chips?

      • by jank1887 (815982)
        but then ... microsoft and nintendo? don't they just package other people's chipsets?
        • I'm not sure, just my wild speculation. But MS and Nintendo do have wifi enabled game consoles, so possibly their own silicon too.

      • by klui (457783)
        I think the poster was referring to Cisco/Linksys.
        • by evanspw (872471)

          Cisco has a license with CSIRO. They got that when they acquired Radiata to develop WLAN chipsets. Radiata was (largely) spun out of a colloboration between Macquarie Uni and CSIRO to commercialize OFDM.

    • by thpr (786837)
      Any other big names I'm overlooking?

      I wouldn't think anything special about Apple being missing given that IBM/Lenovo (depending on how the suit would hit based on time of filing), Sony, Cisco/Linksys are missing. A host of others [wi-fi.org] would be potential targets, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by femto (459605)
        Cisco has probably already licensed the patent. They bought Radiata Communications [nytimes.com], the company which was set up to commercialise the results of the CSIRO/Macquarie University WLAN project, so licensing issues were probably dealt with then.
      • They don't want IBM to buy them out, like SCO. SCO is still waiting on its buy-out ... IBM wants to stamp on the company a little more before the stock price is low enough for a purchase. Their advisers probably recommended against any actions that could be construed as hostility towards IBM.
        • by Jesus_666 (702802)
          Being that CSIRO belongs to the Australian government, I seriously doubt they expect IBM to buy them out or attempt to. They might have decided that IBM is too expensive a target to take on, however. (On the other hand, Lenovo is not known for having an army of ferocious lawyers so they'd be a regular target.)

          I think the "some people actually licensed the patent" theory might have merit. Or CSIRO simply doesn't have the money to take on all of them at once.
          • Lenovo's got the Chinese government's backing though, any Australian company would think twice about suing these guys. You may be able to win a suit in Australian court, but they are risking having every single one of their patents rendered useless by having millions of nameless small companies building rip offs selling at dirt cheap price then disappear the next day.

            • by Jesus_666 (702802)
              That would be a big PR problem for China, though. The message they'd send would be "don't give us access to any kind of technology or we'll do whatever we want with it". The end result might be sanctions like trade tarriffs. Those tarriffs would not neccessarily be good for China's trade partners (China is a big producer of everything) but they would probably hurt China more than the rest of the world (the rest of the wrld is bigger than China). In the end, it's not a smart move to piss off the whole planet
    • Good point, Lenovo isn't on there. Or maybe that's under IBM since this is before the spinoff?

    • by tepples (727027)

      Notice one missing?

      Sony, the third console maker.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sony makes consoles? Have they sold any?

        • by Jesus_666 (702802)
          Yeah, they had one back in 1995. It was pretty nice. They then recycled the brand name for Linux workstations with experimental hardware, though.
    • Actually I suppose I don't see Compaq anywhere in there either.

      I thought HP owned compaq now, the website redirects to HP. Or did I just miss the joke?

  • by tagno25 (1518033) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:24PM (#27440125)
    The CSIRO is suing the wrong people. They should be suing the chip manufactures(Broadcom, Intel, Atheros, and maybe some others), not the people who bought chips and had them re-branded.
    • by kelnos (564113) <bjt23@coCHEETAHrnell.edu minus cat> on Friday April 03, 2009 @12:56AM (#27441097) Homepage
      Nope, responsibility for paying royalties usually falls with the last link in the chain before the customer. It's not unheard of for the chip manufacturers to pay for licensing and then include the cost of that licensing in their chip cost to the OEM, but in my experience the OEM usually handles royalty payments.
    • This would make the most sense(and I made a similar comment in a previous article about the CSIRO-Buffalo Tech case), but from what I gather from other posts that is not how it works in the real world(or at least in the US). In order to design and manufacture chips for OEMs to use, they should be required to obtain special licensing that transfers downstream. That way, Broadcom would pay the license, and then Buffalo or Linksys or whoever can make a wireless card using the chip without having to pay yet ano

  • I could care less if they have or haven't a valid claim. The simple fact is nothing patented should ever be included into an "open" standard. I am so sick of all the horseshit. In my opinion nothing is patentable since it is built on the work of others. Not to mention trivial, most of the stuff created today I had working examples of when I was 12. So I would say 90% of the technology you all use is simple. Patenting software? Come on what a joke. They are mostly patenting a description to a solution to the
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      You didn't actually read anything past "patented", right? Neither is this about software nor did you have a working example of orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing around when you were twelve (unless you are young enough to have been twelve after CSIRO developed the technology).

      Also, CSIRO disclosed its patent during the standardisation process and told everyone they'd expect licensing fees. Everyone agreed to use the tech and pay for it. It's not like they snuck it into the standard.


      Please read
    • Rupert Murdoch has assaulted Australia's government for not spending enough money, for instance to give Australians widespread broadband access.
    • Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp.
    • Seemingly paradoxically, News Corp.'s various American media outlets delight in agitating against any Federal spending that might keep the U.S. on the cutting edge, technology or any other -wise
    • Rupert Murdoch is a loyal Australian
    • Hewlett-Packard has caved on the CSIRO lawsuit
    • Mark Hurd is HP's Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive

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