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Aussie Wi-Fi Patent Nears Expiry In the United States

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the time-to-share dept.

Australia 48

Bismillah writes "Australia's national science and research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or CSIRO, has netted hundreds of millions on developing the near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi technology — and patenting it. Now however the patent is about to expire in the United States and eighteen other markets and the question is, can CSIRO come up with anything similarly successful in the future?"

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Zoom (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445101)

Galligalligalli
Zoom
Galliggallie

expire (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445121)

... however the patent is about to expire in the United States ...

Haha, good one. You, sir, owe me a new keyboard.

Re:expire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445183)

While US copyright duration has been extended many times, I'm not aware of a similar trend for patents.

Re:expire (3, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44445289)

While US copyright duration has been extended many times, I'm not aware of a similar trend for patents.

It was extended from 17 to 20 years for "international conformance", but that's the only one I know of.

Re: expire (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#44445397)

The U.S. patent term was "extended" from 17 years after grant to 20 years after filing when it takes 3 years to process a patent application anyway.

Re:expire (2)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44450769)

It was extended from 17 to 20 years for "international conformance",

No, it was SHORTENED from 17 years after GRANT date, down to 20 years after FILING date. Grant date was routinely much more than 3 years after filing, so it was significantly shortened, and made much more predictable when patents expired.

If you don't believe me, just try and stop paying those MP3 patent license fees... The mostly-complete MPEG-1 draft standard was initially published in September 1990, just shy of 23 years ago, yet the patents are still in-force for a while to come.

Not really (0, Troll)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year ago | (#44445149)

My understanding is that the CSIRO patent and general claim that Australia "invented wifi" is perceived as nonsense, and CSIRO is seen as little better than a patent troll. WiFi is the result of a standardisation process in which many people and organisations contributed technology.

Re:Not really (5, Interesting)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#44445213)

Yes, I like the section in this article [arstechnica.com] which talks about how old and common the tech in the CSIRO patent is;

"All of the elements of the "unique combination" CSIRO proffered in court as a breakthrough weren't merely old by tech standards, they were decades old. "Multicarrier modulation," used in WiFi as OFDM, was described as early as the 1950s. Papers had been published on interleaving in the 1960s. Forward error correction, Intel's lawyer told the Texas jury, "was used when NASA sent the Mariner mission to Mars in 1968." Harris Semiconductor had actual working products incorporating these techniques by the 1980s and the company was selling its modems to the US military. The lead defense attorney for Intel, Robert Van Nest, even showed one of those Harris modems to the Texas jury during the 2009 case.

"This Harris modem wasn't patented," Van Nest explained. "Of course not. Nobody thought this was a real invention, because interleaving, modulation, and coding had been around for 30 years by the time Harris came up with this." The issue was making great wireless products, Van Nest explained. "The problem wasn't putting these radio technologies together. Everybody had that... The problem was, how do you take something like the Harris modem and turn it into a chip that I can hold in my hand? That's a problem that the CSIRO patent doesn't even address."

Re:Not really (5, Informative)

Brulath (2765381) | about a year ago | (#44445363)

As noted by MrNemesis [slashdot.org] , the Ars Technica piece was, as so much journalism unfortunately is these days, written to push a specific "us vs them" mentality; this ultimately resulted in the author compromising their integrity to try and hammer a dubious point home in a concrete manner. A look at the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article about the CSIRO patent notes the author had a follow-up article [arstechnica.com] with more dubious attempts to validate their point; he quotes an unrelated and apparently uninformed politican saying Australia invented WiFi - it did not - as evidence of CSIRO claiming it did, and making the unusual assertation that because CSIRO itself wasn't directly involved in the creation of the WiFi standard its patent claim is invalid, even though a company that was licensing CSIRO's patent actively used it as part of their participation in the creation of the WiFi standard. The Register [theregister.co.uk] also covers the interesting points.

I'm an Australian and I think CSIRO is an awesome organisation that's earned considerable respect, and I'm not overly fond of the US media's attempts to smear it in order to improve their bottom line (in Ars' case, ad impressions from indignant people on both sides of the fence).

It's easy to jump on a bandwagon, but you should figure out where it came from and where it's going before you do.

Re:Not really (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445417)

Just another example of the dank abyss into which ArsTechnica is sadly sinking these days. They used to write fairly good technical articles; after being bought out, now it's all about the ad views.

Something which can be said about many a site, these days.

Re:Not really (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44446793)

Reading the links you provided all I see is a lot of "he said, she said". None of them goes into enough detail for a reader to judge whether or not the CSIRO claims are legitimate. I even took a glance at the patent but, even though I'm fairly knowledgeable about these sorts of wireless technologies, I know it would take hours at the very least to study the patent and the prior art to even start to form a knowledgeable opinion.

Have you studied this issue in enough detail to have a truly informed opinion? If not, how did you come to the conclusion that CSIRO has a valid patent claim?

Re: Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44451293)

No, but lawyers from every major WiFi module manufacturer in the USA including Intel (if you take the comment from the previous user) couldn't convince a judge that the CSIRO patent was invalid.

I know we don't like patents he at slashdot, I know I don't, and we have seen our fair share of pretty shit patent decisions. But this is one fought by many many technical experts from some of the largest tech companies in the world (ie fast from underfunded), and even then, they lost.

Re:Not really (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44451415)

And don't forget that when the author took heat for bad journalism in the comments, they locked out any further posts with a snotty comment along the lines that any further discussion was pointless.

If any other news organization did that Ars would pillory them as the top news item. But apparently it's ok if they do it.

Re:Not really (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44452427)

The CSIRO used to be well respected and did a lot of good pure research. And they did invent and patent the algorithm used for boosting the bandwidth of WiFi in an indoor environment where there is interference from walls.

However, now the CSIRO is run according to KPIs for profit from patents and does little pure research. It is rife with over management, bullying and feuds over allocation of a diminishing pool of funds. Most of the researchers doing interesting research, instead of defending their turf, have been sacked.

Re:Not really (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#44445217)

My understanding is that only straw men regard CSIRO as having "invented" Wifi - like you said, it was a combination of inputs. The difference is that most organisations were already private or decided to privatise themselves to exploit the technology, whereas CSIRO has kept to its public research purpose. How else do you suggest that it receive its share?

Re:Not really (5, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year ago | (#44445283)

WiFi is the result of a standardisation process in which many people and organisations contributed technology.

Yes, but not the CSIRO; from all evidence, it was an example of convergent evolution, much like calculus - both the IEEE and CSIRO came to the same conclusions as regarding the best way of handling indoor interference, its just that CSIRO did it first, and patented it. Then the IEEE produced their standard without checking for patents, and unknowingly incorporated patented technology in it.

My understanding is that the CSIRO patent and general claim that Australia "invented wifi" is perceived as nonsense, and CSIRO is seen as little better than a patent troll.

That "understanding" seems to derive from sour grapes over the fact that some other country is exploiting the patent system the US has forced on the rest of the world. Personally, I think that the fact that an entirely unrelated entity managed to duplicate the patent without relying in CSIRO's knowledge should be proof of it not being sufficiently non-obvious - but there are thousands of US patents that I have to pay for that would be invalidated by that same standard, so the US can just suck it up. The game is stupid, but it was them who wrote the rules.

Also, CSIRO has been around since 1926, long before the IEEE even existed, and is responsible for a vast amount of scientific research. Calling them a patent troll is like calling Bell Labs a patent troll.

Re:Not really (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445407)

IEEE and CSIRO weren't independent, as the IEEE standard was derived from CSIRO's work. Via their proxy, Macquarie University, CSIRO were in the standards meetings making technical contributions and being upfront about patents and the need to pay a reasonable royalty. The big players ignored the request for royalties, guessing CSIRO wouldn't be up to the fight. They were wrong.

Re:Not really (5, Informative)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44446683)

The version of events you're describing didn't happen. There was no "convergent evolution". CSIRO spin-off Radiata was involved in creating the standard. See the Register article [theregister.co.uk] . There's a license letter [ieee.org] proving the IEEE was fully aware of CSIRO patent and its impact on the 802.11a standard. If you look at the letters of assurance list [ieee.org] , there was a long list of such agreements hammered out as part of the standardization process. Given all that, the idea that CSIRO's technology was obvious and easily duplicated isn't true either, so your US patent system flamebait is unsupported by this example. The only part you got right here is that CSIRO's role as a research lab that spins off commercial products does not make them a patent troll.

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44446917)

both the IEEE and CSIRO came to the same conclusions as regarding the best way of handling indoor interference, its just that CSIRO did it first, and patented it.

Wouldn't that suggest to a rational person that the technology isn't "non-obvious" and thus unqualified for patent protections?

Re:Not really (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44446987)

it was an example of convergent evolution, much like calculus

First you question the CSIRO patent, then you add insult to injury by questioning whether Sir Isaac Newton was the One True Discoverer of fluxions (calculus if you must really insist), and that Leibniz was but a thief and a credit stealer.

I hope you realize that this may start another war with the British Empire (err, Commonwealth, or whatever they call it these days). That's ok, we won the first two, even if our Canadian excursions weren't as successful as hoped (the Aroostook War notwithstanding). Third time is a charm though. Forget 54-40 or fight, the new goal is 84N!, and we'll liberate Quebec!

Re:Not really (1)

aevan (903814) | about a year ago | (#44449793)

Oh no! Don't take Quebec! Take ANYWHERE but Quebec you barbarians you!

Psst. any chance you can take Harper while you're at it too? We'll add in a few dozen cases of maple syrup and bacon :P

Re:Not really (1)

Lluc (703772) | about a year ago | (#44450299)

Actually the IEEE dates back to 1884. The IEEE was formed when the Institute of Radio Engineers merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. The American Institue of Electrical Engineers was founded in 1884. IEEE [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44452199)

Calling them a patent troll is like calling Bell Labs a patent troll.

Bell Labs is a patent troll. If you could ask Nicola Tesla, he would agree.

dangerously communistic (3, Interesting)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#44445155)

You mean a couple of enterprising managers/scientists didn't immediately spin themselves off into a new company so they could personally collect the profits rather than give back to the universities and public sector research bodies which gave them education, experience, equipment, salary, thousands of articles upon which to base their research, and an almost infinite number of grad students, like with almost all groundbreaking modern research?

Re:dangerously communistic (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about a year ago | (#44445227)

None of these things would have been commercial successes without the business guys and technologists taking them over and exploiting them for profit. There are a few examples of successful scientists and engineers also becoming successful in business, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Re:dangerously communistic (2)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year ago | (#44447863)

So ultimately the best sector for CSIRO is the cost saving rather than the profit generating sector. Research that benefits the public the most when it is given away freely. Things like essential medicines etc. A very good point of focus for CSIRO would be the proper and effective application of herbal remedies, with focus on sub-species efficacy. Of course forget the silly cure everything but there is still can be great results in prevention and of course recovery promotion. So herbal remedies, high cost of research, not much chance of profit with exploitative and death dealing patents (can't afford the patent fees than shut up and die) but huge opportunities in major medical cost savings.

Re:dangerously communistic (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about a year ago | (#44448013)

Well it just so happens that I was listening to The Philosopher's Arms show on iPlayer (BBC) [bbc.co.uk] last night, and they were discussing these kinds of choices. It's classic Prisoner's Dilemma stuff, isn't it. I think they even mentioned the medical sector too.

Re:dangerously communistic (2, Informative)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#44445245)

They did try, the company was called Radiata, founded by ex-CSIRO employees; it was purchased by Cisco, but ultimately failed to come up with any commercially successful products and was written off.

Re:dangerously communistic (1, Informative)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#44445259)

There was a failed attempt to put a link to this page [cisco.com] into that post.

Re:dangerously communistic (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445365)

The name of the company was right, so the comment wasn't completely wrong.

Radiata was founded by Macquarie University employees (Skellern and Weste). Macquarie Uni were the team that converted it from a non-real time testbed to a real-time WLAN. Pre-dating to the foundation of Radiata, Macquarie Uni fed its results into the 802.11a standardisation process. Cisco bought Radiata for $560m and rolled the tech. into their products. The founders did very nicely out of it, given their subsequent lifestyle changes, and one headed up Cisco's WLAN division, so it was hardly a failure. Independently of the sale of Radiata, CSIRO has received about $1b in royalties. Not a bad try.

Re:dangerously communistic (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#44446485)

I propose that slashdot be renamed to "The Great Internet Strawman Factory".

Really? Only $430 million? (3, Informative)

TFlan91 (2615727) | about a year ago | (#44445177)

Have they really only made $430 million? If I were them, I'd look back and wonder where the royalty negotiations went wrong... That seems like a low number for something that is quite literally everywhere.

"expected to be in more than five billion devices by the time the patent expires."

~$0.08 per device for one of the most significant and widely known technologies in use today, someone got a good deal, wasn't the Aussies

Re:Really? Only $430 million? (5, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44445299)

~$0.08 per device for one of the most significant and widely known technologies in use today, someone got a good deal, wasn't the Aussies

I don't know. Yes, WiFi is everywhere now, and it's easy to conclude that they should have charged more. but would WiFi have taken off in the same way if they had charged more? Perhaps not. Hindsight is easy. Foresight isn't.

Besides, I think I could retire quite comfortably on $430 million, even in Australia.

Re:Really? Only $430 million? (2)

greg1104 (461138) | about a year ago | (#44446769)

There is a long list of patents and technologies [ieee.org] that went into WiFi. CSIRO's patent only covered one part of that, so it's not the case that their chunk represents all the inventor royalties here.

Re:Really? Only $430 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44452391)

Yes, FRAND is not FREE.

Actually Useful (5, Informative)

MrNemesis (587188) | about a year ago | (#44445203)

Not sure where the derogatory tone is coming from, but this isn't a patent troll - they do actually have a patent on something that's useful and ubiquitous.

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/06/01/2258221/csiro-sues-us-carriers-over-wi-fi-patent [slashdot.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSIRO#802.11_patent [wikipedia.org]
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/10/csiro_patent_trolls_wifi/ [theregister.co.uk]

As someone said in the last slashdot thread, all patent trolls may ask for money for patents they hold, but not all patent holders are patent trolls. As with many,many previous articles on this, it somehow seems to be framed in a "US versus them" argument to help fan the flames of jingoistic controversy.

Given the headlines and summaries this morning I think samzenpus is coming down off a three-day bender.

Re:Actually Useful (2)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#44445339)

CSIRO is not really a patent troll that produces nothing. They do have some software released under GPL or Mozilla Public License [csiro.au] . They've also develped software that has been sold off to private companies to become comercial products.

Re:Actually Useful (5, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year ago | (#44445493)

Not to mention building the first electronic computer in Australia (and the fifth in the world), developing the polymer banknotes used in Australia and many other countries in the region, building the Parkes Radio Telescope (which was used to help capture transmissions from the moon landing), developing Aeroguard, creating flu treatments...they've done a little bit more than write a bit of code and file for patents.

Re:Actually Useful (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44447143)

CSIRO is not really a patent troll that produces nothing. They do ...

Anybody who is familiar with CSIRO (including this Yank) knows they do some very good work. That has little to do with whether it's a valid patent. Even Apple fanbois, for example, admit that some of Apple's patent claims are ridiculous.

Re:Actually Useful (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44447271)

It is sort of like the US NSF... the thing that is strange is not that they do good work, but that they ended up with the patent rights. In the US, a university would grab hold first, most likely.

Re:Actually Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44446727)

"Useful and ubiquitous" doesn't make the patent valid.
"Unique and non-obvious" is what makes a patent - and the tech CSIRO patented for WiFi doesn't meet this criteria.

Re:Actually Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44446935)

Patent trolls actually hold patents. Whether or not the alleged troll actually holds a patent isn't the issue. The issue is whether the patent makes sense. The answer is "no."

Obligatory (1)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about a year ago | (#44445295)

No.

Re:Obligatory (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445783)

You should keep an eye on their material sciences research...

Disney (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44445585)

Patents should be death+1,000,000 years, just like copyright.

Re:Disney (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44448661)

Patents should be death+1,000,000 years, just like copyright.

Mickey Mouse isn't patented... although maybe his hat and coveralls should have been. Too late for that now.

Not Sure If It Means Much To The Consumer (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#44446313)

Sure the patent runs out. But isn't this kind of like, just the 'base patent' for the technology? All the implementations (like 'G' and 'N' type routers, or client devices) are what matter to the end user; and whatever commercial implementations exist. It will help the manufacturers in not having to pay royalties, but really, will we see any significant changes for the end users?

Square with rounded corners (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year ago | (#44447009)

I suppose they could patent that.

Oh wait. It's taken already.

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