CSIRO’s WLAN case inches forward

Judge concurs with initial finding by fellow judge.

Australia’s government research agency CSIRO might have to wait a little while longer to get royalties from its Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) technology patent after a US district court announced it would reconsider one of its earlier rulings on an alleged infringement.

CSIRO and US Wireless LAN equipment vendor Buffalo Technologies have been battling in court since 2005 to determine whether Buffalo Technologies is infringing CSIRO’s WLAN patent.

A Texas court ruled in 2007 that Buffalo Technologies had infringed CSIRO’s WLAN patents but there have been a number of appeals and counter appeals since then.

There is much at stake if the court ends up ruling in favour of CSIRO. Other technology companies using WLAN technology such as Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett Packard and Intel are also suing CSIRO to have its WLAN patent invalidated and to avoid paying heavy licensing fees to CSIRO.

In 1996 CSIRO was granted a US patent for WLAN technology it developed more than 15 years ago. CSIRO has since then upheld that companies using this technology should pay royalties.

The decision, issued on Friday by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, was the latest in this protracted battle.

CSIRO did not wish to comment publicly on the case.

According to a CSIRO press release, while the US court's recent decision affirmed most aspects of its 2007 ruling, it nevertheless “remanded the issue of ‘non obviousness’ to the District Court for further consideration”.

Non-obviousness is one of the requirements an invention must meet to be considered patentable in the US, alongside novelty, usefulness and industrial application.

What this means is still unclear and CSIRO was not willing to make any further comments until the district court published its final decision on the issue of ‘non obviousness’ it is reconsidering.

This late development did not seem to disturb the research organisation. "CSIRO welcomes the support given to its case by the Court of Appeals. The decision gives us every confidence to move forward", said Dr Geoff Garrett, chief executive of CSIRO.

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