Australians all, leap to CSIRO’s defence
So Ars Technica, that generally well-respected online publication, publishes an article entitled How the Aussie government “invented WiFi” and sued its way to $430 million which in effect labels the CSIRO a patent troll.
As an Australian it’s hard to read the article without your hackles rising at the author’s patronising tone. Lovely lines like:
Haven’t heard of CSIRO? It’s no mistake. While the organization has been eager to brag to the Australian press about its big-money exploits in US courts, CSIRO has been circumspect about its lawsuits in the US.
And then quoting some over-blown statements made by a politician as if they are indicative of the whole county’s view. The sub-text of the entire article just makes me want to leap to CSIROs defence; I mean, really, this isn’t some tin-pot company, it’s our country’s premier research organisation.
There may well be a legitimate controversy about whether the CSIRO ought to have been awarded the patent in the first place (but they were and took legitimate action to enforce their rights), but the tone of the piece is evidencing affront that an Australian organisation could possibly claim a significant contribution to technological advance and then have the temerity to pursue its rights in “far-off US courts”. It all just smacks of an ugly arrogance from our big friend across the water.
It’s not that often that we Australians find ourselves so blatantly on the receiving end of such patronising views. The article itself is mildly interesting. The eight pages, and counting, of comments with Australian and Americans each leaping to their county’s defence is far more entertaining.
3 thoughts on “Australians all, leap to CSIRO’s defence”
Ars could have easily pointed out CSIRO gets about $720 million a year of Government money for research and development. It could have pointed out that CSIRO has a responsibility to taxpayer to get a return on investment. CSIRO’s biggest expense is employing scientists. It’s actually researching science, and if Australia gets money from that as a result, that’s a bloody good thing.
Ars could could have pointed out that the “CSIRO ranks in the top one per cent of scientific institutions
in 14 out of 22 research fields,” and that “CSIRO’s overall citation rate of 13.09 citations per paper is 29 per cent above the world rate of 10.18” (CSIRO annual report 2010-11).
But I guess those facts don’t really go with the “tin-pot patent troll” line.
While I’m keen that we defend CSIRO, the fact is they really were being a patent troll in this case. When you read the fine print, they didn’t “invent” wifi. The lawsuit is based on the fact that the maths involved in WiFi can be traced back to an obscure paper that a CSIRO scientist wrote over a decade ago, that speculated about the possibilities for wifi using said maths.
Realistically this comes down to a definition of terms. I think most people view ‘patent troll’ as being someone who exploits a patent they have who right to to extract money from people who view the cost of litigation as being higher than the cost of settlement. It’s blackmail.
The CSIRO’s claim may be open to debate, but it is a legitimate claim. It’s also a claim validated by the US patent office in granting them a patent. Once they had the patent who could seriously say they shouldn’t enforce it?
None of that makes them a patent troll. It may be the patent shouldn’t have been granted, but they are not just using a patent they acquired to extort money. They are exploiting a patent they were legitimately granted. If you have an issue it should be with the US patent office for granting the patent in the first place.