CSIRO patent case closes with secret deals

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CSIRO patent case closes with secret deals

A patent battle between Australia's CSIRO and 14 of the world's largest technology companies has settled out of court with a series of secret deals.

CSIRO today confirmed that the patent case being fought in the Eastern District Court of Texas over CSIRO's claim to inventing the technology behind Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) has concluded "successfully".

"CSIRO has negotiated settlement with each of the 14 companies involved in four concurrent litigation cases," the agency said in a statement.

"The commercial terms of the settlements with these companies will remain confidential."

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation claims to have patented core elements of the technology used in 802.11a and 802.11g wireless devices. The CSIRO's US patent for Wireless LAN technology (US Patent 5487069) was granted in January 1996.

In June 2007, the CSIRO won a case in the US Federal Court against Japanese manufacturer Buffalo Technologies, the basis of which the research organisation has used to demand royalties from a broader set of manufacturers that market Wi-Fi equipment. 

The CSIRO filed patent infringement suits against 3Com, Accton, Asus, Belkin, D-Link, Fujitsu, Marvell (manufacturers of Apple's iPod), Nintendo, SMC and Toshiba.

Several large technology vendors bit back - with HP, Apple, Intel, Dell, Microsoft and Netgear bringing cases against CSIRO in an attempt to have the research organisation's patent invalidated.

But as the case has played out in the last few weeks in and out of the Texas court, the Australian Government-funded research organisation has one by one struck agreements with the world's biggest technology players - Dell and Intel as early as yesterday, Microsoft, Asus and Fujitsu settled last week, HP the week prior.

CSIRO's remaining opponents Nintendo, Toshiba, Netgear, Buffalo, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton and 3Com have now also settled.

The windfall from the settlements is anticipated to provide significant revenue for CSIRO, whose lawyers in the case had claimed that its patented technology was used by just about every laptop computer in the world.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark welcomed the outcome and said the CSIRO only became involved in legal action to "defend its intellectual property."

"The WLAN [Wireless LAN] technology was invented by an Australia team of scientists and so this has been an important activity for CSIRO," Dr Clark said.

"CSIRO will continue to defend intellectual property developed from research undertaken on behalf of the Australian taxpayer.

"The commercial proceeds from CSIRO's licensing programs are invested into further research that will be for the benefit of Australia."

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