Australian tech agency CSIRO cuts deals with all firms it sued, that sued it: An Australian IT publications reports that the long-running patent lawsuits among government tech agency CSIRO, which had a broad patent covering some aspects of the OFDM part of Wi-Fi since 802.11g, have been settled. All the firms involved in litigation have cut licensing deals with CSIRO, the article says, although terms were not revealed.
CSIRO sued and won various judgments against Buffalo Technology, a Japanese-owned firm with worldwide sales, when Buffalo wouldn't agree to pay royalty fees. The case has bounced around a bit, with Buffalo's Wi-Fi products enjoined from the U.S. market for years, then allowed again after Buffalo won part of an appeal. It got rather complicated.
In the end, this apparent settlement with 14 firms, some of which CSIRO had sued and others had preemptively sued CSIRO, doesn't mean too much for anyone. There were certainly issues as to whether CSIRO would be able to survive a full-on patent reexamination, as it was clear that some aspects of its patent could have been open to challenge, but there was no way to know whether any parts of the patent would have been struck down, nor whether those would have affected its overall ability to assert rights.
CSIRO reportedly was never asking for much. As a government agency designed to commercialize and promote national inventions, the scuttlebutt was that they wanted at most a few bucks per qualifying device. The settlement likely involves firms paying something for equipment already sold and agreeing on a fee schedule for future sales.
CSIRO reinvests proceeds of commercialization into research, so in many ways this is a win for everyone (except shareholders of firms in the settlement who will have an extremely diluted "loss") as Australia is on the cutting edge of many interesting technologies funded by this agency. A talk with one researcher about photonic terabit switching blew my mind recently.
With billions of Wi-Fi devices to be sold in the coming few years and likely hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, in the market, CSIRO will see a huge winfall even at extremely modest rates for built-in Wi-Fi adapters, where costs are so low it's likely the agency would get tens of cents instead of dollars.
For consumers, we'll see almost no effect. With products price to end in $9 or $9.95 or $9.99, there's little wiggle room to add a buck or two. More likely, manufacturers will simply absorb the cost and reduce their margin slightly, looking for cost savings elsewhere.