Thursday, May 3, 2012

CSIRO Wi-Fi Protocol Patent Owner - Patent Troll?

On April 2, 2012, I posted an article reporting Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) reached a $229 million settlement with Acer, AT&T, Leveno, Sony, and T-Mobile for a license to its Wi-Fi protocol patent.

As I was reading ars technica tonight, I came across Joe Mullins' article How the Aussie government "invented Wi-Fi" and sued its way to $430 million implying that CSIRO is a patent troll, e.g., a patent owner asserting a dubious patent that it does not commercially practice.

Although Mr. Mullins seems to agree with Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols that CSIRO is a patent troll, See Vaughan-Nicols' Australian government patent troll collects from Wi-Fi Vendors, Mr. Mullin's article appears to be premised on the view that a new combination of old elements has suspect validity despite contrary Federal Circuit patent law.

At the same time, Mr. Mullins' article received over 300 reader comments and not all of it positive especially from Aussies that complained that he mischaracterized it the Wi-Fi patent when the claims only covered a component of the Wi-Fi protocol. Whether all of the comments were right, Mr. Mullin felt compelled to address the comments in his Responses and clarifications.

Then in the Australian publication DeLimiter Renai LeMay wrote Is the CSIRO a patent troll? US debate turns feral favorably on Mr. Mullin's article with again lots of adverse comments by Aussies. 

Obviously a controversial topic, but the bottom line is CSIRO has obtained over $430 million given it earlier received over $200 million licensing the patent to 3Com, Asus, Buffalo Technologies, D-Link, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Intel, Microsoft, Netgear, Nintendo, and Toshiba  in 2009. See ZDNet article for information on some of the settlements reached in 2009 here.

The validity of CSIRO patent was greatly disputed at trial, but the case settled after four days of testimony. If the patent was dubious, why the settlement? What appears to be missing from the PTO PAIR records is a request for ex parte reexamination of the patent. Apparently, despite the tone in the press that the patent was dubious, none of the defendants were willing to take on that challenge in the PTO given the monetary stakes.   

Copyright © 2012 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.