CSIRO's Wi-Fi patent victory earns $200m and counting

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CSIRO's Wi-Fi patent victory earns $200m and counting

Commercial and legal teams receive CSIRO's highest honour.

A patent battle between Australia's CSIRO and 14 of the world's largest technology companies has today been revealed to have already gained the research organisation $200 million from out of court settlements.

At a ceremony in Melbourne, the scientific, commercial and legal teams responsible for the settlements received CSIRO's highest honour: the chairman's medal for research achievement.

"CSIRO set out to encourage the industry to take licenses for the use of its patented technology," said CSIRO executive director of commercial Nigel Poole.

"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," Poole said.

Speaking with iTnews this afternoon Poole said the CSIRO were wanting to license their technology further, stating that he "urged" companies using it to come forward and seek a license.

"We believe that there are many more companies that are using CSIRO's technology and it's our desire to license the technology further," Poole said.

"We would urge companies that are currently selling devices that have 802.11 a,g or n to contact CSIRO and to seek a licence because we believe they are using our technology," he said.

He said the CSIRO had already been approached by various companies voluntarily to license their technology.

Asked if he knew how much more the CSIRO expected to receive from the patent, Poole couldn't speculate.

"We don't have a projection of that forward income," he said. "Most of the companies that we've licensed the technology to to date have paid lump sums to buy a license to all of their products and there are some companies that are paying royalties," Poole said.

Next week the CSIRO will launch an endowment fund which it will use to dispense the winnings into. Poole said this would fund further Australian research.

Dr John O'Sullivan, leader of the Wi-Fi project, said he felt "over the moon" about being recognised by the CSIRO.

"[I'm] very proud to have won the award. It was great to see that the whole team recognised," he told iTnews.

"It's good to see the return from that invention and all the effort put into it," he said.

Background: The legal battle

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 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 played out in a Texas court, the Australian Government-funded research organisation struck agreements with the world's biggest technology players - Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Asus and Fujitsu as well as HP.

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

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