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Cisco slings small change at CSIRO over WiFi dispute

Judge orders $USD16 million royalty payment

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Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has wrapped up a loose end in its long-running patent arguments over WiFi, winning an American judgement against Cisco over royalty payments for CSIRO's technology.

The long-standing argument wasn't over patent infringement – both parties agreed that the technologies Cisco was using were covered by CSIRO's patents – but rather how much the networking giant needed to pay to the agency.

In this judgement (from Australian IP blog Patentology), Eastern District Texas Judge Davis has awarded just over US$16 million to CSIRO for around 18 million Linksys products sold while the company was owned by Cisco, plus nearly 1.5 million enterprise-grade products.

The royalty therefore works out to around $0.83 per device.

Cisco had tried for an estoppel on the claim, something the judge rejected, saying that CSIRO had not misled Cisco: “Legal estoppel requires that CSIRO granted Cisco certain rights, received consideration for those rights, and then sought to derogate from the rights granted,” something the judge rejected.

The CSIRO technology formed the basis of Cisco's 1990s entry into the WiFi market when The Borg acquired Radiata, the company formed to commercialise the technology. While the acquisition brought with it agreements about Cisco using the technology in 802.11a products, that wasn't the case with later variants of WiFi that also used the technology.

CSIRO had made RAND commitments for 802.11a products, but not for 802.11g / n / ac variants, which Cisco argued should be covered by the same rates it was paying for 802.11a. The judge also stated that there was no agreement or obligation forcing RAND licensing on CSIRO for the later standards.

As Patentology states, CSIRO has been “largely successful” in this case, since while “the final damages award is around half of what it had asked for, it is about fifteen times the amount Cisco argued it should have to pay. And the court found in favour of CSIRO on almost every other issue that was in dispute.”

CSIRO's WiFi patents, which cover dealing with noise in WiFi environments, ended up the subject of several disputes the agency has won over the years. ®

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