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CSIRO wifi patent

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is an Australian organisation which holds US patent 5,487,069 on wifi networking. This patent has been the subject of massive litigation, however, it appears to be a hardware patent, not a software patent.

In 2009, CSIRO got an out of court settlement from fourteen companies for infringing this patent. As of 2010, CSIRO is in the process of litigating six more companies.[1] This was after the companies reneged on a deal to pay royalties during the standards process.[reference needed]

CSIRO's commercial executive director describes their patent plans as "trying to license an entire industry".[2] He also mentioned that their patent has been granted in nineteen countries.

About the patent: a hardware patent?

The patent is described as "a wireless LAN, a peer-to-peer wireless LAN, a wireless transceiver and a method of transmitting data, all of which are capable of operating at frequencies in excess of 10 GHz and in multipath transmission environments." A number of the claims do not include the 10GHz limitation and therefore are said to apply more generally to wireless communications including those covered by the 802.11(a), (g) and (n) standards.

According to some, it is not a software patent, it is a hardware patent, because the word 'software' does not appear.

Similar patents include US4,679,227[3] and US3,605,019.[4]

Litigation and licensing

An initial case against Buffalo was filed February 2, 2005.[5]. CSIRO has filed a total of twenty infringement cases since.[6]

The first court case took place in 2006. The USA's Federal Court of the Eastern District of Texas ruled in favour of CSIRO in a summary judgment, confirming the patent's validity.[7]

On an appeal of the district court ruling, in September 2008, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) found the patent was not anticipated and infringed, but remanded the case to reconsider the non-obviousness of the patent in view of the KSR v. Teleflex case.[8] (QUESTION: did the district court case happen?)

As a general note: The claims of a patent are "anticipated" when all of the elements of the claim are found in a single reference. A patent is "obvious" when the combination of two or more references provide all of the elements of a patent, and a person having ordinary skill in the art would have a reason to combine the references.[reference needed]

HP settled on April 2nd 2009.[9]

On April 22nd 2009, the other parties in the case chose to settle.[10]

CSIRO's 2009 financial report showed earnings of A$ 200 million (US$ 166m) from this patent.[11] Some experts suggest that the total royalties over time could exceed US$ 1 billion.[12] The fourteen parties are 3-Com, Accton, Asus[1], Belkin, Buffalo, D-Link, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Netgear, Nintendo, SMC, and Toshiba.

The patent is currently undergoing ex parte reexamination at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The reexamination was filed on behalf of Intel. The USPTO found that the request raised a substantial new question of patentability and ordered reexamination on February 20, 2009. The reexamination application number is 90/010,367.

In 2010, CSIRO announced they had filed litigation against Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and were in the process of filing litigation against Lenovo, Sony, and Acer.[13]

A non-practising entity?

CSIRO has been called a non-practising entity[14] as it does not make or sell any networking equipment. However, they did launch a start up (Radiata, Inc.) to commercialize their wireless technology, later selling it to CISCO for approximately US$ 295 million.[15] To date, CISCO has not been the target of any CSIRO suit for enforcing wireless patents.


CSIRO announced that they will put 75% of the royalties gathered in 2009 into a fund for further research.[16] As of May 2010, CSIRO has announced plans to lay-off 15% of their IT staff.[17]

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

Patently-o coverage

Links to be sorted later


  8. "...we are remanding this case to the district court for further proceedings on the issue of obviousness"