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Champagne at CSIRO after WiFi patent settlement

US carriers cough up

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Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has won another round of its long-running patent battle with US carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offering a settlement worth more than $AU220 million.

The three carriers had been resisting paying royalties to the agency, and as recently as last Friday (March 30) were still expected to kick off their own case against the so-called “069 patent”.

Back in 2009, action by a number of big-name US vendors – HP, Asus, Intel, Dell, Toshiba, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, 3Com, Buffalo Technologies, Microsoft and Nintendo – reached a settlement for more than $AU200 million. That success was followed by further licensing deals, with total royalties so far in excess of $AU400 million.

The 069 patent is based on the use of techniques first applied to radio astronomy, in particular fourier transforms, to overcoming multipath distortion of wireless network signals. This work led John O’Sullivan – an electrical engineer specializing in radio astronomy – to receive the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Others at CSIRO – a team including Diet Ostrey, Terry Percival, Graham Daniels and John Deane – completed the task of applying O’Sullivan’s work to computer networks, culminating in a technology now used in the 802.11a and 802.11g standards.

The latest win was announced by minister for science and research, Senator Chris Evans.

The patent could yet net more filthy lucre for the science agency. Other vendors targeted in cases brought by CSIRO, and not identified as in the current settlement, include Sony and Lenovo. ®

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