Computer giants attack Aussie CSIRO's WLAN patent

Friday, May 20, 2005

Six of the world's largest computer companies are seeking to have a patent held by the Australian Government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) revoked. Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple and Netgear are taking legal action against the CSIRO to have its U.S. patent broken.

In 1996, the CSIRO developed technology to allow computers to be networked together wirelessly. The technology is now built in to most laptop computers and manufacturers currently pay the CSIRO a licence fee to use it.

According to CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Geoff Garrett, the system enables the speed of Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) to be increased by a factor of five.

This isn't the first time that the CSIRO has been involved in legal action surrounding this patent: in February 2005, it commenced legal action in the United States against Buffalo Technology, a Japanese-owned company, which had ended negotiations with CSIRO about obtaining a licence.

The Australian Government's research arm has announced that it will fight the legal action to protect its intellectual property, the income of which it uses to fund its research. It has come under increasing pressure following the Australian Government's cutting its funding in 2003, which has only been recently restored.

"As part of our business we create high quality intellectual property and we are prepared to defend it," Garrett said.

"We actively encourage the utilisation of the results of research in industry and communities, both nationally and globally, and any royalty income will be reinvested in further research."

The patent in question is U.S. Patent 5,487,069 Wireless LAN.

The case also raises issues about the recent signing of a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States. Per the agreement, Australia plans to introduce American-style intellectual property law.