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Aussie boffins settle crucial Wi-Fi lawsuit

White flag waved over crucial Wi-Fi fight.

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An Australian government agency that has been locked in a long-running legal battle in the US courts over who invented key technologies behind Wi-Fi, has successfully reached a settlement with some of the biggest names in the IT industry.

Each of the 14 companies the agency sued for copyright infringement in 2005 has cut confidential settlements with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), it has been revealed. They are Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Intel, Dell, Toshiba, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, 3Com, Buffalo Technologies, Microsoft and Nintendo.

CSIRO plans to use the financial windfall to fund new research.

CSIRO announced Wednesday that the patent case, fought in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, over royalties over its patented wireless technology, had successfully ended.

"CSIRO has negotiated settlement with each of the 14 companies involved in four concurrent litigation cases. The commercial terms of the settlements with these companies will remain confidential," the agency said in a statement.

In 2005, the agency sued HP, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Netgear, Toshiba, 3Com, Nintendo, D-Link and Buffalo Technologies, along with other technology companies, claiming the companies had infringed a US patent held by the CSIRO over its IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g Wi-Fi products, a standard that is used by almost every notebook and desktop wireless LAN device.

The CSIRO said at the time it had offered to licence its technology on "reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms but was dismissed by the industry.

Alex Zelinksy group executive information and communication sciences and technology at the CSIRO said he was pleased with the outcome of the claim.

"This is a huge result for Australia as Australian property rights have been protected," he said. "I have enormous respect for the US system of IP protection; we are a foreign entity claiming infringement of property yet they have respected our claim."

Zelinksy said it was likely that the damages from the claim would be distributed between the developer(s) of the wireless technology, their department, and the wider CSIRO to be spent in a strategic fashion on longer term, 5-10 year research projects which were unlikely to attract commercial investment in the shorter term.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark was pleased with the outcomes of the legal action.

"The WLAN technology was invented by an Australia team of scientists and so this has been an important activity for CSIRO," Clark said.

Computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard ended is four-year-old court case against the scientific agency earlier this month.

US patent 5487069 was authorised in January 1996 and covers a wireless LAN, including hubs and peer-to-peer networks.


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