CSIRO rakes in $200m from Wi-Fi patent

Earlier this year we reported the CSIRO’s victory in a long-running legal stoush against the likes of Microsoft Intel Dell HP Toshiba and even Nintendo.

At issue was a 15-year old CSIRO patent which describes “a wireless LAN a peer-to-peer wireless LAN a wireless transceiver and a method of transmitting data”. The patent was registered in November 1993 and approved in January 1996.

Wireless networking was still in its infancy but a decade after the original filing date Intel launched its Centrino notebook platform and drive Wi-Fi into the mainstream.

Apple’s Airport base station and the inclusion of Wi-Fi in its notebooks and later desktops also played a part in cementing the future of wireless networking based on the 802.11 standard. Both Intel and Apple were later involved in subsequent action to have the CSIRO patent invalidated.

But the CSIRO won its case and set itself up to collect annual royalties on the technology from 14 tech companies ranging from software giants like Microsoft to the manufacturers of wireless networking gear such as 3com Belkin D-Link and Netgear.

The total could easily amount to billions as the years progress. This week the CSIRO banked the first slice of that pie in the shape of hefty $200m cheque.

This helped propel the CSIRO from an expected $34m loss to a $12mm surplus in the 2008-2009 financial year.

CSIRO executive director told SMH.com.au reporter Asher Moses that “CSIRO set out to encourage the industry to take licences for the use of its patented technology. When that did not prove successful we initiated legal proceedings which then led to proceedings being initiated against CSIRO.”

“The result earlier this year was that 14 companies settled with CSIRO under confidential terms. The revenue arising from these settlements to date is approximately $200 million.”