CSIRO wins Wi-Fi case

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By Joshua Ostrer

Who gets credit for improving Wi-Fi to its seemingly universally available capability today?

The answer has been officially recognized for the second time. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national government body for scientific research, is that inventor.

CSIRO lays claim to the now infamous “069 patent.” The patent, technically U.S. Patent Number 5,487,069, protects CSIRO’s method of “multicarrier modulation.”

This method is what allowed Wi-Fi radio signals to avoid indoor interference.

“CSIRO did not invent the concept of wireless LAN [Local Area Network], it just invented the best way of doing it, the best way it’s used now throughout the world,” said one of CSIRO’s attorneys Dan Furniss.

The patented method was adopted by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1999 and a more developed version of the method is currently in use.

CSIRO began legal action in 2005 to receive compensation for their patented technology. In 2009, CSIRO obtained a settlement payment of $212 million from 14 companies: Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Asus, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Nintendo, Toshiba, Netgear, D-link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, and 3Com.

However, on April 1 CSIRO proved victorious once again.

This time CSIRO netted a payment of $220 million after reaching agreements with 23 additional companies, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. CSIRO and the Australian government say it is satisfied with the result.

“It was important that Australia protect its intellectual property, and that those whose major companies who are selling billions of devices pay for the technology that they were using,” said Australian Minister for Science and Research Chris Evans.

The settlements have sparked controversy. The large monetary settlements have been labeled by some as CSIRO’s “lazy billion.” Although CSIRO has only garnered $432 million, they are expected to gain more in licensing rights to Wi-Fi products.

However, despite complaints that the settlements will result in increased costs of consumer products carrying Wi-Fi, all 37 companies now hold licenses for CSIRO’s technology.

Despite the Australian government’s successes in the United States, their patents remain unrecognized in Russia and China.

CSIRO will most likely encounter continued resistance to their attempts to license a worldwide industry.

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