This story from Information Week — Wi-Fi Takes Shape As The Next Patent Battleground
A little-noticed Federal court decision issuing an injunction against wireless LAN equipment vendor Buffalo Technology in its patent fight with an Australian science agency could have broad implications for the Wi-Fi industry.
Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. Eastern District Court of Texas found on June 15 that Buffalo violates the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s 1996 patent underlying 802.11a/g technology–the core of all corporate wireless LANs and public Wi-Fi networks. Davis issued an injunction blocking Buffalo, a Japanese manufacturer with a subsidiary in Austin, Texas, from selling WLAN products until it has a license agreement with CSIRO.
Buffalo is likely to appeal the ruling and ask the court for a stay of the injunction. But if the ruling stands, Davis’ decision could force makers of Wi-Fi-based products–from laptops to smartphones to semiconductors to game consoles–to pay hefty licensing fees to CSIRO, an Australian federal agency akin to the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Recognizing the CSIRO patent as a threat, a group of major tech companies that includes Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel filed lawsuits in May 2005 to have the CSIRO patent invalidated. CSIRO countersued. In all, CSIRO has three other cases challenging Wi-Fi use by Belkin, Dell, D-Link, Fujitsu, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Netgear, 3Com, Toshiba, and others. Notably absent is Cisco Systems, which pays royalties to CSIRO from its acquisition in 2001 of Radiata, a company formed by CSIRO.
MP3, VoIP and now Wi-Fi? Does anyone really know who owns these fundamental patents?