WiFi Inventor CSIRO Wins US Legal Battle

by Gaurav Kheterpal on April 2, 2012

There’s no doubt that WiFi is the most widely used medium to access the Internet these days. And the best part, it keeps getting faster, bigger and better every year. It’s believed that the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots will increase by 350 percent in the next four years and it’s a given that wireless carriers all around the globe will increasingly use WiFi as a means to offload traffic from their mobile networks.

While that augurs well for the future of this game changing technology, not many people know that the inventors of WiFi have been engrossed in a long legal battle over licensing the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that was invented in the early 1990s.

Australia’s scientific research agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) is credited with the invention of WiFi and over the year, it’s been suing companies which have been using the technology without a licence. The good news though – CSIRO has finally reached a multi-million dollar out-of-court settlement in the United States over the use of its wireless internet technology which underpins WiFi platforms worldwide.

To put things in perspective, WiFi technology is used across more than 3 billion electronic devices worldwide. CSIRO is credited with using radio-astronomy to crack the problem of radio waves bouncing off surfaces indoors, causing an echo that distorts the signal. Their team of scientists built a fast chip that could transmit a signal while reducing the echo, thereby establishing commercial viability of the technology.

The agency started legal action over its patent in 2005 and settled major cases against 14 firms in 2009, netting payments of $205 million that year. These included big names such as HP, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Netgear, Toshiba, 3Com, Nintendo and D-Link. As part of this settlement, it will earn another $229 million from several companies including Lenovo, Acer, Sony and AT&T.  To put things in perspective, CSIRO now has license agreements with 23 companies including lap-top makers, mobile carriers and wireless chip makers, which represent around 90 percent of the industry.

“People all over the world are using WLAN technology, invented right here in Australia, to connect to the internet remotely from laptops, printers, game consoles and smart phones in their homes, workplaces and cafes,” Minister for science and research, Chris Evans said. “The work in radioastronomy by CSIRO scientists here at home is having a positive impact on the way people live right around the world.”

CSIRO’s patent is set to expire next year.  While it’s heartening to see CSIRO and technology companies settle the issue amicably, it also highlights the need for researchers to better manage their intellectual property.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby:RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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