Court puts CSIRO Wi-Fi injunction on hold

A U.S. court has stayed an injunction that stopped Buffalo from selling Wi-Fi gear while it fought a patent suit by CSIRO.

A federal court in the U.S. has temporarily lifted an injunction that banned Buffalo Technology (USA) from selling its IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g Wi-Fi products due to a patent claim by an Australian scientific agency.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) sued Japanese IT hardware vendor Buffalo and its U.S. affiliate in 2005, claiming the companies had infringed a U.S. patent held by CSIRO. The suit alarmed some people in the networking industry because CSIRO was claiming it held a patent on elements of the popular Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers standards on which Wi-Fi gear is based.

CSIRO said at the time that it had offered to license its technology on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms but was rebuffed by the industry. It initiated the Buffalo suit as a test case. It also has suits pending against Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Netgear, Toshiba, 3Com, Nintendo, Marvell and other companies.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas found that Buffalo's products infringed parts of the patent, and in June 2007 imposed a permanent injunction against Buffalo that stopped it from manufacturing, importing, selling or using its Wi-Fi products. Buffalo appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

In September, the appeals court questioned whether CSIRO's patent claims were valid and sent the case back to the lower court in Texas. Buffalo then asked that court to stay the injunction while the patent issue was resolved. Buffalo expects the court to schedule a trial soon on the validity of CSIRO's claims.

With the injunction lifted, Buffalo said it is free to sell 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n products in the U.S.

CSIRO officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Stephen Lawson

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