CSIRO set to win key WiFi royalties case against the top three carriers in the US
The Australian March 13, 2012 12:00AM
THE CSIRO's legal bid to keep royalties flowing from its WiFi patent by taking on the top three carriers in the US appears set to succeed.
CSIRO sources confirmed that a number of major electronic equipment manufacturers had approached the national science agency seeking to negotiate licence terms to use its wireless technology.
It's understood that the manufacturers are major equipment suppliers to the three carriers the science agency sued for alleged patent infringements in the US early in 2010: AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.
The CSIRO source said the science agency was "optimistic" it could settle its claims against the three carriers in court-ordered mediation scheduled before they go to trial in April.
A CSIRO spokesman confirmed that "negotiations were under way" with a group of manufacturers seeking licences to use its wireless technology but he declined to comment further.
It's understood that if CSIRO secures licence agreements with about six or seven manufacturers it would end legal exposure for all three carriers.
It was not clear whether the three companies that had sought licences from CSIRO were WiFi chipset makers or handset makers like Apple, RIM and Samsung.
CSIRO's wireless technology patent, which it has already successfully enforced in claims against Dell, Microsoft, Intel and Toshiba, is potentially used in billions of devices manufactured with WiFi connections.
In May 2010, when CSIRO first sued the three carriers, commercialisation executive director, Nigel Poole described the agency's strategy as a "pincer movement". "You've got court action against upstream chip makers and you've got court action against downstream carriers," he said.
An early settlement would increase pressure on laptop manufacturers Lenovo, Sony and Acer, which CSIRO is also suing as part of the same action to follow suit.
A further two companies seeking to have CSIRO's patent overturned as a part of the upcoming trial, Atheros and Broadcom, would also need to reconsider their chances of succeeding.
The CSIRO would be hoping for a repeat of its success in early 2009 when 13 major technology companies agreed to settle with the science agency, netting it an estimated $1 billion dollars in revenue over the next five to 10 years.
The CSIRO's claims date back to 2005 when it sued wireless component provider Buffalo for intellectual property breaches.
After CSIRO lawyers won an injunction blocking the sale of Buffalo's WiFi chips, 12 other companies -- including Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Nintendo, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Netgear, Buffalo, D-Link, Belkin and 3Com -- joined forces in a bid to crush the CSIRO patent.