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CSIRO wins first round in WLAN patent war

This is not a case of David and Goliath, but a case of David and several Goliaths: In one corner is the Australian science agency CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organization). In the other corner: Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Apple, and Netgear. Who would you put your money on? Don't reach for your wallet quite yet, as earlier this month Judge Leonard Davis of the US District Court for the eastern district of Texas issued a Markman opinion accepting terms of argument and definitions of the issues on hand which favor CSIRO. Yes, this is only the first round, but the Goliaths have been staggered and they will fight the remaining rounds with one arm tied behind their backs.

The six computer giants have been seeking to have a patent held by CSIRO revoked. In 1996 CSIRO developed technology to allow computers to be networked together wirelessly. Geoff Garrett, CSIRO's chief executive, says the system allows the speed of WLAN to be increased by a factor of five. The technology is now integrated in most laptop computers and manufacturers who do so pay CSIRO a license fee to use it.

This is a second legal skirmish for CSRIO. In February 2005 it launched legal action in the U.S. against Japanese company Buffalo Technology. Buffalo could not reach a license agreement with CSRIO, but went on to use the technology in its products anyway.

CSRIO received the U.S. patent on the WLAN technology in 1996 and has spent million since then fighting for royalties for it. Its battle became even more urgent in 2004 after the Australian government had cut its funding for the organization.

Garrett said CSRIO will fight to the end: "If CSIRO doesn't do it, we in Australia are going to get rolled."

For more on CSIRO case:
- see this report from The Australian

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