Some of the world's biggest technology companies have joined together defeat a key patent claimed by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The companies include Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Apple and Netgear.

At issue is a patent issued in the US to CSIRO in 1996 that, the organisation claims, increases the speed of a wireless network up to five times. According to CSIRO, it is `considered essential` for any wireless network which hopes to comply with a number of IEEE standards. CSIRO says that its data acceleration patent is now a standard feature in most notebooks and other wireless devices.

If true. CSIRO has the wireless world over a barrel. Hence the unusual unanimity amongst the US

vendors. However, the organisation has pledged to defend its patent in the courts.

The CSIRO is the Australian Government's scientific research agency. Its remit is to undertake research for the benefit of Australia and its industry. It also seeks to licence its discoveries as a way of offsetting the bill to the Australian taxpayer.

Dr Geoff Garrett, Chief Executive of CSIRO explained, `as part of our business we create high quality intellectual property, and we are prepared to defend it. We actively encourage the utilization of the results of research in industry and communities, both nationally and globally, and any royalty income will be reinvested in further research.`

CSIRO says it has offered licenses to all major manufacturers of Wireless LAN equipment on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms as soon as their devices using CSIRO technology reaches the market.

In February this year, CSIRO started legal proceedings against the Japanese owned manufacturer Buffalo Technology in the US courts after the company pulled out of licence negotiations.