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Is Australia's CSIRO a Patent Troll?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the always-thought-of-it-a-fairly-benevolent dept.

Australia 175

schliz writes "Australian tech publication iTnews is defining 'patent trolls' as those who claim rights to an invention without commercializing it, and notes that government research organization CSIRO could come under that definition. The CSIRO in April reached a $220 million settlement over three U.S. telcos' usage of WLAN that it invented in the early 1990s. Critics have argued that the CSIRO had failed to contribute to the world's first wifi 802.11 standard, failed to commercialize the wifi chip through its spin-off, Radiata, and chose to wage its campaign in the Eastern District courts of Texas, a location favored by more notorious patent trolls."

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175 comments

umm (0, Troll)

NerdmastaX (1749114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192201)

yawn

Re:umm (5, Interesting)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192333)

maybe cos its a government research organisation, not a commercial company. maybe the difference is that many other government research orgs are quite happy to sink countless millions in taxpayer-funded grants into new tech that is merely ripped off by commercial companies, so that taxpayers get to pay for it twice-over.

what csiro does with patents in the commercial world is called "business".

i say good on csiro for working for their major shareholder - the aussie taxpayer.

Re:umm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192657)

When the government does it it's called "business", when business does it it's called "theft".

Re:umm (4, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192689)

When a research organization files a patent on non-trivial research they did, it's called "innovation", and when an organization which employes mostly lawyers files one on a fairly obvious thing it's called "trolling".

Re:umm (1, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194817)

Except it was trivial. They simply moved techniques long know in the radar industry to low-power routers to prevent them being swamped by reflection of their own signals. So, by your own definition: Trolling.

Re:umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193159)

its 4cents per wifi adapter

Re:umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193279)

actually its 4cents per wifi device over a period of ten years or more.
devices like wireless modems, access points, routers, wificards, wifi in phones etc.

Re:umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193309)

don't know if its 4cents per wifi device but it could easily be 10cents if you read this link and do some maths
http://www.isuppli.com/Mobile-and-Wireless-Communications/News/Pages/More-Than-1-Billion-Devices-to-Have-Embedded-Wireless-Networking-Capability.aspx

Re:umm (0)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193367)

Perhaps government agencies should leave "business" to businesses.

Re:umm (3, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193805)

Perhaps government agencies should leave "business" to businesses.

Why? What would businesses do in the case of the Wi-Fi patents that would be different to (and better than) what the CSIRO is doing? It seems to me that how the CSIRO has handled the patent situation prove that they don't need to leave "business" to businesses; the government is doing quite well enough.

I think perhaps that your argument stems from ideological views rather than an objective analysis of the facts. The CSIRO Wi-Fi technology happened as a byproduct of their research into radio astronomy. Do you really think that businesses can be relied on to do all the work required for astronomy? Is there are big market for that sort of thing?

Re:umm (0)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194569)

I'm not saying that CSIRO shouldn't have done the research. I'm saying that government funded research shouldn't result in patents or copyright. It's double dipping, taking two forms of government subsidy.

Re:umm (1)

doktorjayd (469473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193927)

Perhaps government agencies should leave "business" to businesses.

Perhaps business lobbies should leave "government" to governments.

pun aside, the csiro is a research organisation, funded by the commonwealth, and providing a return on the investment through patenting the outcomes of its research. another former public asset was the commonweath serum laboratory ( CSL ), which was sold at a price some years ago, and no longer returns its profits to the previous owner ( the australian government ).

we've been down this path with telcos, water authorities and power distributors ( privatisation ), and as far as i can tell, the only upside is if you land a senior management or board level gig with the new owners. certainly not the consumers, let alone the lower level employees who are thinned out before sale, then outsourced as soon as the public outcry over privatisation settles down.

i for one am all for government businesses, as these tend to be much more long-term result focused ( though short electoral cycles and the penchant for the right to strip and sell the assets do get in the way), which leads to steady training and employment through higher education in these fields.

universities in australia are largely publicly funded, and although there has been a push by some recent governments to make such institutions profitable in the short term, applying the long term lens to education is key to economic development for both public and private business.

why then do you think its bad for governments to be running institutions that can return on the investments they make?

 

Re:umm (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194653)

The reason to have something run by the government is because the profit based incentives of a business do not work in that area. Like you pointed out, private, for-profit utilities do a poor job. I see no good reason to run a government research organization like you would a private research organization. The sensible way to handle this would be to do the research and make it freely available. The funding would come from taxpayers, and if this research is truly fruitful, the public would have greater prosperity, and greater capabilities of funding further research. It also means that agencies like CSIRO can make research decisions based upon what is best for the public to research, as opposed to partially or wholly avoiding research that isn't patentable.

Re:umm (2)

damienl451 (841528) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193585)

The problem is that this overlooks one of the major problems with the current drive to patent all that can be patented, even when it was found as part of a government research project. As soon as there is a possibility to directly profit from research findings, it becomes more likely that research will be directed toward what will maximize the likelihood that something patentable will be found. This reduces the difference between what government and what the industry will focus on, which undermines the rationale for having government research in the first place (i.e. to fill in a gap and allow for "pie-in-the-sky" research that, although interesting for theoretical, basic science reasons, has no immediate applications). If the government ends up researching the same things as industry does because they want to be the first to patent it, launch a spin-off and get bought out by the industry, it might be easier to just subsidize the industry.

I have seen it happen at my own institution. Several departments have now all but abandoned basic research and focus on applied endeavors that would be best done by private companies. Mostly recycling well-known solutions with minor, incremental changes rather than trying any "bold" new research that might or might not work but has the potential to fundamentally enhance our understanding of the world.

It's quite a significant departure from the traditional role of government and universities in research and also restricts the diffusion of knowledge. If something has been funded by public money, it belongs to the taxpayer and should be freely available. This is one of the important roles of government, to release things into the commons so that it can be used freely. If, as an offshoot of basic research, interesting information is released and allows companies to improve their products at a low-cost, then the taxpayer benefits from that (especially since, with no patent, all companies have equal access to this innovation and cannot leverage the exclusivity to charge more), probably more than if universities join in the patent thicket and start suing companies on the basis that they "invented" such things as predictive text (University of Texas).

Patents might still be useful in pharma, where the costs of developing a new drug (even when the basic research has already been done by a university) are very high and the marginal of the drug is close to zero. But in most other fields, it's just a nuisance.

Re:umm (1)

NerdmastaX (1749114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194613)

maybe cos its a government research organisation, not a commercial company. maybe the difference is that many other government research orgs are quite happy to sink countless millions in taxpayer-funded grants into new tech that is merely ripped off by commercial companies, so that taxpayers get to pay for it twice-over.

so i get modded troll for pointing out the trolls like this one ^^^ i watched two ac's seed this comment list at 5 am. i call total bullshit

Re:umm (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194797)

maybe cos its a government research organisation, not a commercial company. maybe the difference is that many other government research orgs are quite happy to sink countless millions in taxpayer-funded grants into new tech that is merely ripped off by commercial companies, so that taxpayers get to pay for it twice-over.

Really?
First: lets set the record straight, they didn't invent wifi. It was working long before they got involved. They merely improved it, by applying state of the art backscatter minimization techniques already well known in the radar and UHF radio industry so that it could penetrate walls, and work in confined spaces.

CSIRO patented an idea. An algorithm. A mathematical formula for signal timing. Its exactly the same thing as MP3 patents, or the patents (expired) on GIF images. Had an american company done this, even a publicly funded one, you would have been all over them as patent trolls. But because its Australian it gets a pass?!!?

Second, instead of setting up a company or licensing others to set up companies to produce products they publicized their work, waited till it was widely adopted, then started suing people. They initially released it for open use, not expecting much. Even when the world+dog decided they wanted laptops they did nothing to license it. Only when it became ubiquitous did they jump in with lawyers.

If it was tax payer funded, it already belongs to the people.
People weren't paying for it TWICE until CSIRO decided to sue. So the very thing you condemn was brought about by the action you applaud.

Only when they started patent trolling did those licensing fees get passed on to the consumer to pay yet again for something they had funded and contributed to the community. Routers cost money to build.

Is CSIRO returning any monies to the Aussie Taxpayer? Is their government funding in any way reduced in light of their licensing revenue? Nope.

Re:umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40195211)

How is it working for the aussie taxpayer? By denying the taxpayer to access to the inventions made with his money? This is no different from government funded research, that ideally should be open to all.

Re:umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193203)

yeah god damn bastards making wifi possible an increasing the cost by 4c. How come they didn't just practically give it away to the US like the scramjet, they are our lord and master of course.

Their work, their say. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192237)

As an amateur photographer, I don't sell any of my photography. I do post it online for people to look at and enjoy, but I don't commercialize it.

As an open source software author, I also don't sell or commercialize any of my code - I license it for the most part under the GPL and have for years.

But in neither case does this mean others are free to take what I've created and do with it what I do not wish. You don't get to sell my photography for your own profit, you don't get to include my code in your commercial app, not without my permission. I've been in court over two photography infringements and won, and went damned near it for code I've written with others. I don't see why patents in a system that accepts them as valid (their validity is another entire argument) are any different. Creator gets the say...

Re:Their work, their say. (4, Insightful)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192851)

Copyright and patent are very different. Patents give you exclusive rights to an idea, process, or method. Copyrights only cover making copies of a specific implementation. Comparisons between the two will always result in a flawed analogy.

Re:Their work, their say. (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193175)

Ideally, patents only give rights to an implementation of an idea.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193259)

If that were strictly true then patents would be no use. Just move the screw connecting two parts by a tiny bit and you have a different implementation of the same idea. So then you have to come up with some clear definition of when two machines are the same as the one described even though, in some detail, they are different.

That's the point where your patent attorney steps in. He writes a patent which shows every nearby variation he can possibly think of and generalises the original design so that you can see all sorts of similar machines. Now your patent becomes "overly broad" but nobody can really define that properly. This is the reason why most calls for "patent reform" are fundamentally flawed. The system works pretty much as well as it can given the fact that people are involved.

The only solution is to clearly ban some types of patents and enforce licensing of others at reasonable costs.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193791)

Where people are involved there's always room for development. The most important thing would be for patent offices to consist of much smarter and more educated staff, the kind that can actually understand the applications. Also, there are ways to effectively combat overly broad patents: prior art, used properly, could be one; pricing patents based on broadness could be another.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193837)

Copyright and patent are very different. Patents give you exclusive rights to an idea, process, or method. Copyrights only cover making copies of a specific implementation. Comparisons between the two will always result in a flawed analogy.

It is true that copyright and patents are different, but then so are cars and patents - and yet we still accept car analogies. Being different doesn't mean the analogy is flawed. So where exactly did the grandparent go wrong?

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193919)

By comparing copyright to patent. His analogy of his photographs and software is completely unrelated to patents. He doesn't own the ideas embodied by his pictures or code, he only owns the specific pictures and code, and he controls the right to copy them (thus the name copyright). Anyone can go take materially the same photo, or write a program to do that same things and it has no relationship to his copyright. They can even sell their photos and programs. That isn't true of patents. The attempt to compare his rights under copyright to the rights of patent holders is the flaw. Specifically, his comment "I don't see why patents ... are any different" is the flaw.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194049)

I still disagree. Just as someone else can take their own photographs of the same subject matter, so to can other companies solve the multipath Wi-Fi problem using a technology other than the one the patent provided. For example, if you can make your own Wi-Fi standard and avoid having to use fast fourier transforms to cancel out the echo then you would not owe the CSIRO a cent.

But I think you are missing the point of the original poster. The AC was merely pointing out that the CSIRO invented the technology and appropriately patented it. This means that they get to license their patents as they see fit. The creator gets their say, be they the copyright holder or a patent holder. Both are using the IP laws as they were intended, despite any differences between copyright and patents that you may find.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194145)

...so to can other companies solve the multipath Wi-Fi problem using a technology other than the one the patent provided.

Which is exactly why a comparison to copyright is flawed. It's different (from his examples) because it IS different (rights).

No, I didn't miss the point of the OP. I addressed his statement. Him not commercializing his copyrighted material doesn't limit anyone else. If he had a patent and didn't commercialize it, he CAN prevent others from doing it. Different rules, invalid comparison.

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40195415)

Different rules, invalid comparison.

This is never going to end, because we are going around in circles. My final comment would be to suggest that you look up the definition of the word analogy [thefreedictionary.com] and see that it describes a similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. Copyright and patents do not need to be 100% agreement for an analogy to take place, especially when the differences do not alter the intent of the original statement.

Patent or copyright? (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194367)

Are copyrights really that different from patents? What about copyright that involves adaptations of, among other things, literary works. A Hollywood studio might spend millions to buy the "rights" to a successful novel, and yet the movie version will have only the basic plot in common with the novel. So is the plot of a story covered by a patent, since after all, it's a mere "idea" that finds its "specific implementation" either as the movie or as the novel on which the movie is supposedly based on?

Re:Their work, their say. (1)

damienl451 (841528) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193623)

Assume that the taxpayers are paying you to take these pictures because it has been decided that it was important for art to be produced. Wouldn't it make sense to make these photographs available to all, without restrictions?

But they actually did the work (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192239)

Where does having actuallly done the damn work and in fact continuing to put their efforts into doing even more research fit into the patent troll definition?

Re:But they actually did the work (-1, Offtopic)

NerdmastaX (1749114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192251)

so because its a troll article we get two ac trolls? f**ing a things at slashdot have went down the tubes ILL REPEAT YAWmotherf**ing..N

Re:But they actually did the work (5, Insightful)

FirephoxRising (2033058) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192277)

Exactly. So the answer is no, they're not patent trolls at all. Others have said that they could've got it to work and that the solution they found wasn't revolutionary, but no one else did get it to work, so CSIRO gets the credit and should enjoy some benefits from that. If you're saying that they did nothing unique, then why didn't you do it first, get a working solution out there and enjoy the results?

Re:But they actually did the work (4, Funny)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192771)

The answer is patently no.

Re:But they actually did the work (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192761)

Exactly. Trolls are also supposed to have no business model other than litigation. This article focuses on one single lawsuit and entirely disregards all the positive innovations the CSIRO has done. Its so stupid, "its not even wrong"

Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192243)

Australian tech publication iTnews is defining 'patent trolls' as those who claim rights to an invention without commercializing it

Dingo dongers. Some companies are good at R&D, some at mass production. It's perfectly valid to specialise in one or the other.

Is an architect a troll if he doesn't dig his own foundations? Article's a bag of arse, mate.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (5, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192315)

Yeah, deffo taking the piss here.

CSIRO is not a patent troll because they freely license their patents to almost anyone who wants to use them. They don't lock their patents up and wait for someone to accidentally infringe them, if you want to license a CSIRO patent you just contact them. Patent trolls do not license their patents. CSIRO developed the technologies they license, the money gained from the patents goes into more research, so they aren't trolling to get money for shareholders because they haven't got any.

So the article doesn't know its arse from its elbow.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (4, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192507)

Not to forget CSIRO does a whole bunch of research that they give away absolutely free. It was only the right wing ass hats Liberal Party that demanded all CSIRO research must generate a 'Profit' ie research for pesticides is OK but research using natural predators to controls pest is bad (don't get to sell pesticides etc.). Fortunately this idea was tossed out as basically evil and CSIRO still do a lot of free to access research http://www.csiro.au/ [csiro.au] . The whining about this patent is likely because money going to CSIRO is a double loss for the greedy, having to pay and a lot of that payment going to free to access research.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193613)

The CSIRO does a lot of pure research that doesn't have any practical application in the forseeable future, so there's no point in trying to patent it: there's no specific invention, so there's nothing to patent. I'm a graduate student in astronomy in Australia, and a lot of the people I work with work at the CSIRO.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192589)

I'm a patent litigator, admitted to practice in the Eastern District of Texas. Patent trolls absolutely license their patents - they simply do so at absurd rates (e.g., $220M for some wireless patents of dubious quality).

It's like saying someone's not a thief because they'll freely leave you alone once you give them your money at gunpoint.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193879)

Patent trolls absolutely license their patents - they simply do so at absurd rates (e.g., $220M for some wireless patents of dubious quality).

Your argument rests on the idea that the patents are of dubious quality. What about them is dubious? They solved a problem that nobody else at the time could solve. Doesn't that mean that they were indeed a non-obvious invention?

The CSIRO did actually shop the technology around the place to get people to license it, long before it got used in a standard. This was not a submarine patent.

So it is more like saying that someone's not a thief because they spend their stolen money on really cool stuff.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (3, Insightful)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192785)

Patent trolls do not license their patents.

What?! That is the primary purpose of all patent trolls! Why do you think they take companies to court in the first place? To force them to license... Same CSIRO.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (4, Interesting)

rat7307 (218353) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192885)

No, it's to retroactively sue for infringing that patent. A common trick is to wait until your patent has ALMOST become a defacto standard then sue (see Microsoft's FAT lawsuits and some of the LCD companies out there)

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193393)

Going through lawsuits are expensive, and carry big risks, which is why settling out of court is so common. The lawsuits are the threat to get the other party to accept licensing.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194203)

That is an _additional_ trick that some troll have used (and plenty of producing patent-litigators as well), but it is not the primary mode of operation, just one of the more offensive ones.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194123)

Patent trolls do not license their patents.

Sure they do. How else do you think they make money? Even when they sue, the purpose of the suit is to force the defendant to take a license, either court-imposed or in settlement negotiations. In the case of a non-practicing entity, the purpose of an injunction is just to give the patentee leverage in the license negotiations. There are exceptions, such as a patentee that has an exclusive licensee and is suing to prevent others from using the technology, but ultimately that's about protecting the value of the original license.

Re:Strewth, the article's a bag of arse, mate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40195433)

No, CSIRO did not develop the technologies. ODFM was developed in the 50's. Forward error correction was developed in the 60's. They didn't even come up with the idea for it, the 802.11 committee was working on it years before them.

CSIRO is still a good company, but are misguided in litigating for this. The 802.11 committee developed their own standard completely separate from CSIRO, and yet CSIRO thinks that they should own it because they were the first to patent it, nevermind the people that actually invented the technology.

Please use international units of measurement (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192545)

1 "bag of arse" = How many "Library of Congresses" . . . ?

Re:Please use international units of measurement (3, Funny)

alfoolio (1385603) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193185)

1 "bag of arse" = How many "Library of Congresses" . . . ?

You've unintentionally crossed measurements sir, the international metrics are confusing. To clarify:

1 "bag of arse" = 0.25 "Member of Congress"

Hope that helps.

No (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192245)

CSIRO actually does research. Patent trolls buy their patents.

Re:No (4, Interesting)

cloricus (691063) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192693)

Exactly.

Furthermore, CSIRO immediately reinvested almost all of this money into developing better wireless technology for rural communities in Australia and worldwide (as part of the NBN project). If patent trolls used their gains for research instead of lining pockets of the rich I imagine we'd all have a very different opinion of them.

Re:No (3, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192705)

Exactly. This definition only allows commercial enterprises who do in house R&D to avoid being lumped in with the lowest of the low in the business world.

Medical research institute? Patent Troll
Any research organisation? Patent Troll
Universities? Patent Trolls.

There are many ways research institutes who patent inventions and then licence them out to companies. Some companies decided to copy the technology without licensing it, technology which the instituted invested money into creating. Just because it had to be settled in the courts they are now a patent troll?

Which idiot wrote this definition?

Does research VS. Applying for patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193167)

So yes, CSIRO propably does some really hard non-trivial research, I wouldn't know...

But where is the line between doing actual non-trival research (not troll), and just applying for as many trivial patents as possible (obvious troll).

Science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192255)

$220 million settlement over three U.S. telcos' usage of WLANBlack Dsquared Women T Shirt White [mydsquared2.com]

No (5, Insightful)

Quick Reply (688867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192257)

No they are not patent trolls. They innovate as their primary purpose, and do not acquire patents from other organisations so they can collect royalties or litigate.

Re:No (2)

bobby1234 (860820) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192289)

correct. And they allow others to use their invention if they pay an agreed royalty.

Otherwise there wouldn't be any incentive for them to invent new things. They spent time and money creating the new tech and they need to get a return. As they are not a product company then they rely upon royalties and such to keep inventing the next great thing!

Re:No (1)

damienl451 (841528) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193695)

Absolutely not. They are a government body, which means that the incentive part has been fixed for them already. The basic argument for patents is indeed what you have stated: it is cheaper to copy than to innovate. Therefore, all companies have an incentive to wait for others to innovate, then copy what they have done. Therefore, there will be less innovation than socially optimal and we must have patents to give companies incentives. In others words, we allow inventors to internalize some of the positive externalities that innovations generate.

The main rationale for government-funding of research is exactly the same: innovation generates positive externalities and, by funding research, we also allow for the internalization of these externalities. In theory, there is no need for patents in that situation.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40195237)

Except in this case the funding is from taxpayers of one country (Australia) and the benefits are being reaped by citizens of other nations. Thus, there is an additional externality. Patent-and-freely-license is the most obvious way to internalize those extra-territorial externalities.

Would you call Stanford University a patent troll? (5, Insightful)

level380 (2427256) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192265)

Based on this any research University or Organisation around the world would become a patent troll unless they start to use the 'research' aka patents they created. Let me spell it out for you, CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation..... Its a Research Organisation that is funded partly by the Australian Govement and partly by the income it gains from patents it created based on its research. This what a Research Organisation do.... it works on new ideas, gets them to a usable stage and sells them on to other companies to use the idea/tech to make money. In return they get a cut of this all done via the patent system. Would slashdot dare call Stanford University or Harvard University a patent troll? Hell no... Poor IT world. CSIRO asked for payment based on companies using there research when all the IT companies tried to steal the idea and play the mob card, ie if no one pays we don't have to! CSIRO is very easy going and licences the work they do at very cheap prices, its not like they asked a over the top amount. Any money they do gain is feed back into future research projects and isn't paid out to shareholders or fat CEO's!

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192587)

It's really a shame that research organizations are now forced to fund themselves. They have no other choice other than to create commercially viable technologies in order to justify their existence.

Imagine a world where pure research organizations could pursue long term ideas, and give the results of their works for free to the public?

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (1, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192743)

Fail to see the point. If the result of research is not commercially viable then what is the point of the research? Only commercially viable research is passed onto consumers within products. Then it entirely depends on the licensing fees to insure it doesn't make something commercially unviable.

Note that CSIRO is not forced to fund itself. But at the same token why should the Australian taxpayer be out of pocket for something which benefits the bottom line of the likes of IBM, Cisco, Netgear etc?

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193363)

The point is that it's difficult to predict the relevance of a given technology. If you have a mandate to only explore "commercially viable" science, that means only exploring stuff that boring suits think might generate a bottom line. But people are terrible at predicting what will be useful and what won't.

Ultimately, yes, I agree, pie-in-the-sky science projects can irritate me, but making all science "commercially viable" is inevitably going to reduce the amount of science that actually produces results useful in the technical arts.

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193811)

True but you still get side spin-offs. As in this case. The way of eliminating interference in WiFi was not discovered because they were trying to solve a WiFi problem, but rather trying to figure out visual problems in space telescope optics. Just because you chase one commercially viable target doesn't mean you can't hit another.

But I do get what you're saying.

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (1)

doktorjayd (469473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194005)

that means only exploring stuff that boring suits think might generate a bottom line.

even worse, it means exploring stuff that suits think will generate the highest amount, leaving us with an intellectual monoculture.

i understand the csiro has already re-invested into further wireless research as a result of this, but i also hope they're able to spread it around the organisation, even some pie-in-the-sky stuff ( the original wifi patent came about as a result of some radiotelescope research... hows that for pie in the sky? :) )

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192623)

Based on this any research University or Organisation around the world would become a patent troll unless they start to use the 'research' aka patents they created.

You're misrepresenting the *substantial* difference between research and patent seeking. 'research' is open, it is all about sharing knowledge and promoting the free reuse of discoveries with no strings attached. 'patent seeking' is about closing off ideas and generating rent by artificially restricting the rest of the world's experimentation with similar ideas.

The fact is that the CSIRO is skirting the line, and that can put them very close to patent trolls.

For any true research organisation, that is, if its purpose for existing is research, then patents aren't needed. It's not like the employees do nothing all day, and one day someone hears that patents are worth money, and suddenly everybody does research so they can get the patents. Most university departments are true research organisations, and they *don't* seek patents.

It's true that patents can supplement income for a research organisation, but again, that's just *one* way of supplementing income and certainly shouldn't be the *main* one. There's grant money, consulting, teaching/seminars etc, even bake sales ;-), all of which don't bring the nasty evilness of patents into the world.

An organisation which only does research and seeks patents from that research exclusively to sell them is IMHO a patent troll. It's a classic case of homesteading the space of ideas for rent money. Just because maybe a "good guy" does it doesn't make it right.

What said organisation ought to be doing if it is going to patent an idea is launching a startup which owns the patent. For example, when Stanford got the patent for PageRank it was used to found a small company to exploit the idea and run with it. If Stanford had just sat on the patent without launching any startups based on it, I would call that patent trolling behaviour. And yes, sometimes Stanford does that too.

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192953)

Wrong. Patents are needed to fund them. Research universities guard their IP as if their lives depended on it. That's not patent trolling, you moron, it's using patents as they were meant to be used, i.e., to fund R&D.

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193657)

You're misrepresenting the *substantial* difference between research and patent seeking. 'research' is open, it is all about sharing knowledge and promoting the free reuse of discoveries with no strings attached. 'patent seeking' is about closing off ideas and generating rent by artificially restricting the rest of the world's experimentation with similar ideas.

I have disagree with you there: Patents are extremely open. To be granted one (and have it remain valid through all the court cases) you have to publish the detail of what your invention does and how it does it, to the point were anyone else skilled in the art could go and implement your invention. It doesn't have to be commercially viable -- infact most patents aren't viable.

Patents doesn't even stop other people extending your work.

This is in contrast to a Trade Secret which is ... well .... secret. Trade Secrets can involve all the same information that a patent does (among other things) but by definition are not published and probably won't be made public at anytime.

Patents guarentee that the knowledge documented in them will eventualy move into the public domain.

The fact is that the CSIRO is skirting the line, and that can put them very close to patent trolls.

How so? CSIRO did some research, got a patent. They even span off a company to try and commercialise it. A standards body asked to use the patent for free -- CSIRO said 'no'. The standards body then asked if they could use it for a small fee and CSIRO said 'yes'. After the standard had been ratified and people started making money from CSIRO's invention they came back and said "about that money you said you'd pay us .... where is it?"

That is in no way troll-ish. They were open and up-front that they had the patent and they even agreed to license it.

For any true research organisation, that is, if its purpose for existing is research, then patents aren't needed. It's not like the employees do nothing all day, and one day someone hears that patents are worth money, and suddenly everybody does research so they can get the patents. Most university departments are true research organisations, and they *don't* seek patents.

They do if they see a worthwhile idea. Infact I'd say any University that didn't file for patents would be doing a massive disservice to their students.

....

What said organisation ought to be doing if it is going to patent an idea is launching a startup which owns the patent.
For example, when Stanford got the patent for PageRank it was used to found a small company to exploit the idea and run with it. If Stanford had just sat on the patent without launching any startups based on it, I would call that patent trolling behaviour. And yes, sometimes Stanford does that too.

CSIRO did spin off a company to commercialise the patent. They company didn't do as well as they'd hoped though.

Re:Would you call Stanford University a patent tro (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194591)

Most university departments are true research organisations, and they *don't* seek patents.

This may be true for your local community college, but it's not true for any university with an engineering or science program. Harvard, MIT, USC, Standford, Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech, Cornell, etc. I know, because I'm a patent attorney and have dealt with many of them and seen patents from the others.

Sigh... (5, Insightful)

bertok (226922) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192267)

If the article heading is a question, then the answer is automatically...

NO.

Submit articles with real reporting please, the type that presents facts, instead of asking questions.

Re:Sigh... (4, Insightful)

ignavus (213578) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192407)

Exactly. THEY invent the process. THEY license it. They do not buy up moribund (and often obvious) patents from other organisations and litigate as their main business.

An organisation that invents non-trivial things, and patents its own inventions, and only litigates against unlicensed use of its own patented inventions, is not a troll.

An organisation that buys up old patents for the purpose of litigating against alleged unlicensed users, without inventing the patented inventions itself, is a troll.

FFS - when will you jerks listen (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192283)

CSIRO have had this in the courts for years. All of these companies ignored the lawsuit and their own peril.
If you want to call a patent troll someone who says "This is a new invention. I'm taking you to court for taking my patent and using it without paying me, even though i've told you that you must pay for it", then yeah, they're a patent troll.

How about you suck my ball sack for repeating an argument you've already been slapped for.

CSIRO is anything but a patent troll. Period.

AC

Prior art vs Trolls? (0)

thogard (43403) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192313)

They won only because none of the groups they sued in Taxas presented proper prior art like the stuff Wilcox or Motorola had. It was a nice win for a research group but it was based on a patent that should have never been issued and courts that didn't see that as the case. So this still comes down to the bad US patent system and the ability to troll that system.

Re:Prior art vs Trolls? (2)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192399)

many patents shouldn't have been issued, and if you did your homework you would realize that there is more in wifi tech than what wilcox and motorola have contributed. the difference between a lot of companies with patents and the csiro is that csiro actually invents things, rather that buying up patents like any commodity (hence they don't need to rip off motorola to make money from innovation).

CSIRO has been inventing things since before Motorola was even founded

Re:Prior art vs Trolls? (2)

thogard (43403) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192547)

CSIRO's predecessor was only around for about two years before Motorola sold their first car radio. CSIRO's goals at the time was to explain how to improve farm yields while preserving food and were doing work like the US Dept of Agriculture did at the time which was mostly trying to keep a US dust bowl type situation from happening in Australia.

CSIRO's contribution to wifi is very minimal and happens to have been used by others before they patented it.

Re:Prior art vs Trolls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192575)

Anyone can patent anything. The crunch time is having a big, unlimited war chest to defend things when big company comes along and steals / infringes . I am amazed a third world country like Australia, and CSIRO actually could cobble together the dollars to take on the rip-off artists. There are many other stolen ideas that CSIRO cant afford to prosecute - because get this - in the USA patents USA can claimthe patent is 'obscure' wiping out prior art from shithead countries like Japan and China, and even Australia, all designed to give home ground advantage to you know who.

Re:Prior art vs Trolls? (1)

Dantoo (176555) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193127)

"third world country like Australia"

fug.......................

Re:Prior art vs Trolls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193581)

Land of the free, and the home of the self-absorbed.

I thought it was just Australia's payola (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192327)

for ongoing support of the Intellectual Property regime.
It is a little too convenient, a little like Lady Di's death, that Australia gets this huge payment and associated publicity for a government owned institution. Without it the Australian public may have questioned whether Intellectual property was actually in the public interest.

No (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192347)

No.

No (4, Insightful)

theweatherelectric (2007596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192421)

If CSIRO is a patent troll then so is every major university. Stanford University's Office of Technology Licensing [stanford.edu] , for example, exists to generate income through the licencing of Stanford developed technologies which they then invest back into research and education. CSIRO similarly invests its income back into research and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund [sief.org.au] . The idea that research organisations are patent trolls and shouldn't be allowed to licence their inventions to others in order to maintain their focus on research is both farcical and intellectually bankrupt. Joe Mullin's jingoistic and, frankly, pathetically insular article isn't worth a second reading.

Are you fucking serious? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192443)

Look at the research they do to improve things without aiming for profit. They reinvest to develop further research. Not a commercial entity.

No. (3, Insightful)

shione (666388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192465)

If they were truely patent trolls then they wouldn't do their own r&d, nor would they ask for a measly $220 million in total from a number of organisation. Considering how much these organisations make from using WLAN $220 million is a drop in the ocean.

Not this crap again... (1)

lendude (620139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192581)

The article is propaganda the submiter is trolling (4, Insightful)

tg123 (1409503) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192651)

I find this article annoying as the poster is using this article to promote his point of view which is biased and misleading.

The CSIRO is a scientific research organization and as such it can in no way commercialize the technology.

I agree that it was sad that CSIRO have to take companies to court to defend their patents but if these these companies would play by the rules and license the technology then CSIRO would not have to resort to the flawed legal system.

The fact that you do not like the way it uses patents to fund research is neither here nor their it as it is using patent law for it's intended purpose which is different from a person or organization that uses patents purely for litigation.

I would ask the poster that if he is going to submit propaganda that at least he should be truthful and honest about what he is doing.

propaganda [prop-uh-gan-duh] Show IPA noun 1.information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. .... http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/propaganda [reference.com]

Re:The article is propaganda the submiter is troll (1)

whitesea (1811570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193787)

You don't understand. The submitter hit on a genius formula to get published on Slashdot. 1. Make up a bogus definition. 2. Use this definition to make an outrageous statement. 3. Profit!

blah (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192665)

No, it's bullshit. It's a stupid definition.

CSIRO does the basic R&D, and they license the product of that R&D work (e.g., patents). That is very much the way to "commercialise" the output of this R&D work. This is precisely one of the cases the patent system was designed for, and exactly how they're supposed to work. Whoever made that definition from iTnews has no idea what they're talking about.

A patent troll is typically a shell company with few assets (to help protect them from counter action) and that does nothing except sue. They often prefer to keep their intentions secret and keep patents hidden, and use FUD and threats, and sue weaker companies who don't have the resources to defend it, rather than try to negotiate licensing terms in good faith.

Article is a shill piece (2)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192679)

Anyone who quotes Florian Mueller as if he were anything other than a shill at this stage of the game is full of it.

ITnews troll about trolls (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192753)

If a "news" organisation makes up their own definition in order to provoke argument, or justify their own opinion they are definetly a troll.

CSIRO may or may not be a patentent troll but ITnews definetly posts troll stories.

Re:ITnews troll about trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40192813)

No, CSIRO may not be a "patentent troll", nor even a patent troll.

But they do commercialise it (1)

baileydau (1037622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192759)

But they do commercialise it. They aren't a "build it"organisation, they're an "invent it" organisation. They commercialise their inventions by licensing them to others who have the ability / desire to build it. That's a valid option.

Just because you've invented something it may only be one piece of the puzzle. The wifi thing they did was a bit like that. It makes the current state of the art much better / useful, but it isn't a stand alone thing.

From a societal point of view, having groups do research like this is a 'Good Thing' (TM). Solve a niggling problem and license it at a reasonable rate.

A troll on the other hand would buy some patents from the real inventor and hunt around for something that looks vaguely similar that had been going on for years and shake them down.

If you're genuine about your patent you'd try to license it ASAP, not wait till they are painted into a corner and can't change technology.

Australia-bashing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193037)

... research organization CSIRO could come under that definition.

As will other research organisations around the world. This is the rich excusing Australia-bashing, in a supposedly Australian magazine.

CSIRO attempted to license its wifi patent (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193111)

Prior to the CSIRO lawsuit, CSIRO actively attempted to license its wifi patents. See http://www.ipo.org/AM/TemplateRedirect.cfm?Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=4600

When the big multinationals refused to pay patent fees, CSIRO opted to defend its intellectual property rights. That's what the patent system is for. If defending intellectual property rights is considered trolling, then why have IP rights?

White Genocide (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193147)

Africa for the Africans. Asia for the Asians. White countries - For everybody.

We are told there is this RACE problem, We are told this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

How long would it take anyone to realise I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?
And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

can you blame them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193249)

with the dubious patents that make it through the office and charge all kinds of money for incredibly simple design ideas one (yes government funded) research centre says "YOU WANT FUCKING FIRE."

Re:can you blame them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40193321)

if they hadn't of patented it then an american company would of and they would be paying for the right to use their own idea.

psychologists call it projection (1)

nadaou (535365) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193361)

no, they're not trolls. but this story is.

It was commercialised (3, Interesting)

femto (459605) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193417)

By a company called Radiata, bought by Cisco in 2000. Radiata was a spin off from a Macquarie University/CSIRO research collaboration, founded by the research leaders at Macquarie University (Skellern and Weste). Here's [jwdalton.com] a picture of the MU/CSIRO protype, taken around 1996. I know this because I (and 3 others) designed and built the pictured prototype.

Re:It was commercialised (1)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 2 years ago | (#40195291)

Hello John,

Thanks for this. I do remember the Radiata days, even though I was not involved myself. I was at CSIRO Maths & Stats at the time, later CMIS, at MU. it was big news when CISCO bought it. I'm surprised that CSIRO retained the IP rights over that design.

I'm not surprised that CSIRO sued and I'm happy they won, but long term I really don' t know whether this will be good or not for the organization. How much time and effort was spent in that litigation ? will the money return to basic science ? Will this means even less appropriation down the track ?

I have mod points... (4, Insightful)

dontclapthrowmoney (1534613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40193523)

...but I couldn't see where I could mod the submission as "troll"?

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