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CSIRO Wireless Patent Reaffirmed In US Court 147

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-was-here-first-nyah-nyah dept.
An anonymous reader writes ""The CSIRO has won a landmark US legal battle against Buffalo Technology, under which it could receive royalties from every producer of wireless local area network (WLAN) products worldwide." From the article: "The patent, granted to CSIRO in 1996, encompasses elements of the 802.11a/g wireless technology that is now an industry standard. It stems from a system developed by CSIRO in the early '90s, 'to exchange large amounts of information wirelessly at high speed, within environments such as offices and homes,' said a CSIRO spokeswoman."
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CSIRO Wireless Patent Reaffirmed In US Court

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  • Hm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tarlus (1000874) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @05:54PM (#16859810)
    Well, as long as I can continue to surf the internet while on the john, I really don't care who owns the wireless patent.
  • by aztracker1 (702135) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @05:54PM (#16859814) Homepage
    Honestly, if anything will scream for patent reform, it's when the cities with municipal wi-fi start getting sued...
    • by lightyear4 (852813) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @05:58PM (#16859902) Homepage
      why would those utilizing the technology be sued? surely the manufacturers of such equipment are those most directly affected?
      • by adavies42 (746183)
        Ask Darl McBride....
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        why would those utilizing the technology be sued?

        Because rightly or wrongly, a patent grants exclusive rights to make, sell or use an invention. The end users are infringing on the patent by using the technology, and unless they got explicit indemnification from the manufacturer, they can be sued.

        The main reason that they probably won't get sued is because it's simply easier to extract a lot of money from a few manufacturers than tiny amounts of money from each of millions of users.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515)
          Well, technically, a patent gives you the exclusive right to stop others from practicing the invention.

          It's not just a semantic quibble I'm making here, the difference is that the patent holder has to actively enforce their patent, and typically that is not an economically feasible thing to do against infringers who don't have deep pockets.
        • by Sj0 (472011)
          There's money in manufacturers because presumably they want to continue marketing their products, but wouldn't the only thing a manufacturer could possibly do to a person by suing them is force people to stop using said products?

      • As soon as the manufacturers go bankrupt from the suits the cities become liable if they don't take down all their equipment. Otherwise, tiny shell companies could email out a bunch of copies of say freetype binaries with the patented hinting code turned on, get sued into bankruptcy, and then everyone who downloaded the binaries would be scot free. It doesn't work that way.
    • by Xyrus (755017)
      Come on! Sing it with me now.....

      We all live in a patent submarine,
      A patent submarine,
      A patent submarine.......

      ~X~
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @05:54PM (#16859816) Homepage Journal
    Something that might have been helpful to include in the story submission:
    *Note for International media: CSIRO is the national research agency of the Australian Government. It undertakes scientific research for the purpose of assisting Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community and contributing to the achievement of national objectives.

    (Source: a previous press release [csiro.au] about the case)
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:40PM (#16860662)

      ...agency of the Australian Government

      Goodness. A dingo ate my wifi!

      Yes, I learned everything I know about Australia from Slashdot, Fosters commercials,
      and Crocodile Dundee movies.

  • How can they collect royalties from Buffalo for every wireless device sold in the world? Does buffalo technology own the patent for that? Wouldn't that mean that companies like Netgear would have to pay them to manufacture wireless gear? I thought that the 802.11 standard was just that, not a patent.
    • Re:Say What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by StArSkY (128453) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:01PM (#16859938) Homepage
      it's called precedent. By winning this one, every other company will pay rather than fight, because the judges will refer to the buffalo case.
      • it's called precedent. By winning this one, every other company will pay rather than fight, because the judges will refer to the buffalo case.

        Precedents only cover the actual jurisdiction of the issuing court. And add that Common Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_law [wikipedia.org] is not the predominant system of law in the world, Civil Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_law_(legal_syst em) [wikipedia.org] is. And Civil Law places a lot less weight on precedents than Common Law.

        • by k_187 (61692)
          true, but to get royalties from an american company, one only needs to sue in america yes?
          • by Tmack (593755)

            true, but to get royalties from an american company, one only needs to sue in america yes?

            From the article, though it wasn't layed out very clearly, it appears they are doing this as a counter-suit: the other US based companies filed to invalidate the patents in question, CSIRO tried filing that they were immune to the US lawsuit since they are a foreign governmental body, judge dismissed their claim and allowed the invalidation claims to proceed, so CSIRO filed counter-suit for patent infringement.

            tm

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by StArSkY (128453)
              the bigger picture

              CSIRO has been "negotiating" licences for the patents with LOTS of copmnanies, including buffalo, dell, microsoft, HP, netgear etc etc etc.

              Buffalo file for invalidation
              CSIRO claimed immunity (worth a shot, but obviously failed)
              then counter-sue for unpaid royalties.

              So it sounds more complicated than it is. The counter-suit is the logical response to an invalidation suit.

              and yeah, plenty of US companies to sue. don't have to worry about the rest of the world if you can sue them all in the U
          • by Spruitje (15331)

            True, but to get royalties from an american company, one only needs to sue in america yes?


            Not completely.
            This patent isn't valid outside the US.
            Which means that this firm only get the money for devices sold in the US.
            Most companies have offices outside the US which are registered locally.
            Say a company named X has an office in for instance Germany.
            They register that office as X gmbh.
            From this office they sell all their devices outside the US then they can claim that another company registered in Germany whic
            • I am not sure if that is true, but if it is then it is an excellent reason for the EU to be vary careful about adopting US Patent practices.
              Going back a step, this patent sounds like it could be legitimate (although a posting below [slashdot.org] begs to differ). Was it filed in the EU as well?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TekPolitik (147802)

          Precedents only cover the actual jurisdiction of the issuing court.

          More to the point, precedents only cover questions of law - it does not cover questions of fact. As between Buffalo and the CSIRO the answers to the questions of fact are set in stone (subject to any appeal) not because of precedent, but because of the principles of res judicata and issue estoppel. As between anybody else (who is not claiming some rights through Buffalo) and the CSIRO, there is nothing to prevent a court from reaching ent

          • Well made point and clarifying. I was just pointing out the most obvious differences in worldwide jurisdictions.
      • I'd love to see them try to sue Apple.

        In February 1995, [isoc.org] an Apple petition to open up more spectrum was approved. The public now has 10 Mhz for license-free use. Apple does not own it. Everyone must use equipment designed for the band.

        ...

        VHR would provide the capacity of moving information at rates exceeding 20 Mbps. These would be primarily in-building networks, but the development of these systems is just in the formative stages.

    • Thats the point, CSIRO came up with the standard and everyone just started using it.
      • by justkarl (775856) *
        I thought it was a IEEE standard(3rd party)
    • Re:Say What? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tmack (593755) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:05PM (#16860022) Homepage Journal
      How can they collect royalties from Buffalo for every wireless device sold in the world? Does buffalo technology own the patent for that? Wouldn't that mean that companies like Netgear blah blah blah

      RTFA... to answer all your questions, YES. They (CSIRO) own the patent, which evidently covers technology that lead to the standard and would mean royalties from most wireless (802.11a/g) devices worldwide, and they are going after the others (Netgear was specifically mentioned) as well...seriously, RTFA!

      tm

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:03PM (#16859976)
    I really think that having the CSIRO earning money for every WLAN access point is a reason why the patent system is a Good Thing (tm). Not greedy corporations making money, just an honest government research institute getting credit for their work.

    Just look at their research on the new Air Guitar for example
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:39PM (#16860632) Journal
      I want my tax dollars paid back, with interest, then. If the government supported any part of the research, it only follows that the government funders (aka taxpyers) should reap the rewards.
      • by MEGAMAID (791988) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @07:26PM (#16861422)
        Well, we'd get them back indirectly. The CSIRO has stated in their press release that they plan to use any money from royalty payments to fund further research. This means that we, the taxpayers, don't have to.
      • I'm sure it was paid back with a highly absurd interest rate from all the sales and income tax on wireless equipment.
    • >an honest government research institute getting credit for their work.

      Did they speak up during the standards process? 802.11(mumble) was hardly a secret or obscure event.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:07PM (#16860064) Homepage Journal
    they would use this finding to stop the manufacture of all infringing devices in the world, except the ones that are made in Australia. Seeing as the charter of the CSIRO is to produce research which exclusively benefits Australian business, that's what they should be doing.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Never happen. Australia's semiconductor industry is too small (does it even exist?) to make this a realistic option.

      More likely is the CSIRO takes its royalties from companies worldwide, and ploughs them into further research in this and other areas.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Shya, it's not like any of these devices are physically made in the USA. They're all built in Taiwan and China. But the devices are designed and sold by US companies.. and there's plenty of Australian companies that do exactly the same thing.
    • by Pseudonym (62607)

      Be fair, now. Those air guitar t-shirts don't come cheap.

    • Before the end of the 1940s CSIRO's predecessor developed and test ran the world's "fifth electronic stored program computer", later known as CSIRAC [unimelb.edu.au]. In 1954 widely venerated Prime Minister Robert Menzies decided that CSIRO should drop research on computers in favour of cloud seeding. (The back stories would fill a book without getting to Pig Iron Bob presenting my undergraduate degree.)

      Then in the early 1980s microprocessor technology faciliated the emergence of a promising embryonic computer hardware indu
    • by Petra_von_Kant (825352) <petra_von_kant@mac.com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:27PM (#16862312)
      As an ex-CSIRO scientist from the early 1990's who personally developed several diagnostic assays for chlamydia trachomatis (look it up) which were commissioned by a certain large Swedish pharmaceutical company, I can confidently say, that the work done wasn't solely for the benefit of Australian companies.

      For some years, the CSIRO has had a policy of being a hired gun, so to speak, for anyone prepared to hand over the readies, and further, applies pressure to the various divisions, to be self-funding to a certain degree (in my particular group, it was 30% but that was 12 years ago now).

      The current Australian goverment, is, unfortunately, a conservative one, and is only too happy to put pressure on the CSIRO and other research institutes to get their funding from elsewhere, rather than from the public purse (well, gives them more money to piss up against the wall for defence et cetera).

      10 years, however, is about par for the course with anything at the CSIRO, as it is now top heavy with administrators whose sole aim in life is to ensure that their arses are protected. The truly great and good scientists from there have all buggered orf or taken their generous redundany pay and retired. Me? I was headhunted over 10 years ago and I don't really miss it the way it is now.

      Rather I yearn for the days before some idiot decided that bean counters or people with an MBA should be in charge, where you didn't have to attend 5 meetings a day or spend time worrying about your ever shrinking contract and were allowed to get on with the genuine science.

      OK, spleen vented ..........
    • by bug1 (96678)
      "Seeing as the charter of the CSIRO is to produce research which exclusively benefits Australian business"

      Where does it mention the word or imply exclusivity in their charter ?

      http://www.csiro.au/csiro/content/standard/psod,,. html [csiro.au]

      +5 insightful.. damn moderators are all trolls as well...
    • Reciprocation would be a bitch.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Well it's not like Australian companies can take patented DARPA research and make products from it. Whereas a US company can use the product-of-public-funds defense if DARPA tries to sue them for violating patents.. obviously that doesn't extend to companies in other nations. So there already is a history of special-treatment-for-your-own-citizens, and Australia wouldn't be throwing the first stone here.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:14PM (#16860186)
    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5487069.html [freepatentsonline.com]
    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5487069.pdf [freepatentsonline.com]

    Its more or less a means of generating multi pathed radio signals with CRC checking from packet data. So long as they're not greedy with the royalties, more power to em.
    • by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:30PM (#16860460) Homepage Journal
      Thanks for the links. My fear initially was that this was just another craptastic submarine patent.

      But here's a question. 802.11a has been a standard a long time, in development long before its acceptance. Why is it that the patents that apply to the technology that this standard is based off just NOW coming to light? Why were patent/royalty issue not brought up in 1999 or earlier?

      It seems kind of shady to me to wait until after the standard was released (1999), after wide spread US adoption (2001), after world wide adoption (2003), until years later when the technology is so prolific that companies that have based their entire success on the technologies covered by the patents have no option to change to a non-infringing technology. Or has this been a 7+ year long court case?

      -Rick
      • It seems kind of shady to me to wait until after the standard was released ...

        Pretty much the definition of a submarine patent: sit on it until there's money to be made.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sk0pe (614508)
          Uhh, yeah. You're ignoring the fact that this suit is a COUNTER-suit. They're suing Buffalo to prevent the patent being rule invalid. Sounds like CSIRO were happy to continue as things were until the manufacturers decided to apply for an invalidation of the patent.
      • by Kyro (302315) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:08PM (#16862032)
        From what I can remember (no source sorry) the reason it took so long was because until the US-Australia FTA was signed 2 years ago or whatever, there was no reason for Intel/Buffalo etc to be worried about getting sued.

        When the FTA was signed, they realised they could get sued so they went to court to invalidate the patent and CSIRO counter-claimed.

        Something along those grounds anyway.
      • by Rohan427 (521859)
        IANAL, but IIRC, under patent law, if it's in the public domain for a year or more, then infringement can't be claimed. If they sat on it all this time, and did nothing, then how can they have any case in the US against anyone? Any patent lawyers out there?

        On the other hand, if indeed they could do nothing legally until recently - whenever the US-Australian FTA was signed - other than write letters, complain, etc., then maybe that is enough grounds in court for pursuing infringment. If they can show a pa
      • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:26PM (#16863954) Homepage Journal
        According to CSIRO they have been selling licences [csiro.au] to companies it's just an issue now because it's now that this "Buffalo Technology" company has decided it doesn't want to pay.
    • by arivanov (12034)
      WTF... Does not compute...

      1. What does this have to do with a 2.4GHz band (it refers to 10GHz+)?
      2. This is very close to a technique which is heavily used in CDMA. Wireless makes little use of it, while CDMA explicitly uses multipath for signal quality improvement. So if this patent is what I think it is they should be suing Nokia, Quallcomm, Samsung and the lot. Not Buffallo.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        Buffalo is an easy first target.

        Now they can go after the big boys and expect high seimans.... hehe, little EE joke in there somewhere ...
      • by makomk (752139)
        I think it only covers ways of avoiding problems due multipath, not using it to transmit faster. I think the same methods as in the patent/802.11 are used in other areas, though, including DVB-T digital TV.
    • by donaldm (919619)
      CSIRO is a Government Organisation and is normally very helpful to Australian industry to the point of giving away their intellectual property. You have to remember that in Australia anything developed by a Government organisation is normally for the benefit of the country since it is paid for by the taxpayer (after all they do provide the funds) so the organisation is not greedy since all revenue ends up in government coffers. Of course if the Government gets greedy then that is a different matter.
  • CSIRO Rocks! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jdigital (84195) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:31PM (#16860468) Homepage
    Don't knock the CSIRO. At one of their 'Double Helix' club meetings I learned how to program my calculator to generate a Mandelbrot set. Might not be so much of a feat to you TI fanboys, but this was on an HP-42S (which I still own & use) - a non-graphing calculator.

    Later I was placed in a summer program where I learned matlab whilst working at a steel testing lab.

    Cool stuffs.
    • by allrong (445675)

      You just provided me with our [csiro.au] internal newsletter's quote of the week. Thank you!

      • by jdigital (84195)
        No Problem! Keep up the good work.

        Now if only I could find my gold double helix card.....
  • by microbee (682094) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:34PM (#16860552)
    A technology will have a very hard time being standardized if someone holds the patent. However, in this case and others, nobody realized the patent issue when it was being pushed as a standard. Many years later, when everyone is using it, the patent holder comes out and claims the ownership and starts to collect payments. It's too late to correct the mistake. If the patent holder had been saying so from the beginning, it would not have had a chance to grow such a market value.

    I think there should be some laws to restrict such a practice.
    • by gid13 (620803)
      You do a good job of describing one of the problems. I'm not normally one to advocate the crazy free-market everything approach, but I'm not positive that more regulation is the ideal approach here. Maybe patents aren't as necessary as everyone seems to think.
    • by atmurray (983797)
      Actually what generally happens is that a technology will have a very hard time being standardized unless companies with lots of say in the ratification process hold patents they can enforce. This means that the standardization process will tend to avoid patents from bodies not involved in the standardization meetings. So the only way for an outsider to get a patent on a key area is to do exactly what the CSIRO have done in this case. Many standards ignore "the best" technologies just because outsider com
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mr_tenor (310787)
      A technology will have a very hard time being standardized if someone holds the patent.


      I don't think you have much insight into the process of making standards nowadays. Do you think the companies involved are charities?
    • by Shanep (68243) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @01:03AM (#16864722) Homepage
      A technology will have a very hard time being standardized if someone holds the patent. However, in this case and others, nobody realized the patent issue when it was being pushed as a standard. Many years later, when everyone is using it, the patent holder comes out and claims the ownership and starts to collect payments. It's too late to correct the mistake. If the patent holder had been saying so from the beginning, it would not have had a chance to grow such a market value.

      I think there should be some laws to restrict such a practice.


      That is not what happened in this case. The patent holder was "holding back" in this case because they had no option. It was an Australian patent against a US corporation. Now that the FTA is in force, this has opened the opportunity not only for the Australian patent holder to enforce their patent in the US, but also for the US corporation to challenge the Australian patent in court. Guess what? The greedy US corportation challenged the CSIRO, an honorable scientific research entity, in court to have their patent invalidated. So naturally, as is required to retain a patent, the CSIRO had to defend their patent to keep it.

      The CSIRO [csiro.au] are good people. They do lots of good things [csiro.au] for the good of not just Australia, but the World.

      This court case was brought against them, the CSIRO, in an attempt to invalidate their rightful patent. If you do not defend your patent, you lose it.

      So here we have a case where a money motivated corporation is trying to stomp on a scientific research entity (which only strives to further the state of the art), so that the corportation can make more money. Thankfully the scientific research entity came out on top.

      There is patent abuse in this story, but it most certainly is NOT from the CSIRO. Thankfully that abuse failed.
  • by mhokie (988228) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:36PM (#16860594) Homepage
    '""The CSIRO has won...'
    Incorrectly starting quotes with two (2) quotation marks has been patented by me! I'd like my $0.15 in royalties please.
  • bad for CSIRO? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grapeape (137008)
    In the long run isnt this going to prove bad for CSIRO? In the future as other "standards" are adopted will anyone want the CSIRO involved and will any of their achievements be looked at as something to include rather than something to avoid? While I understand their reasoning I really think this was very shortsighted and could easily push the CSIRO into the relm of being virtually ignored by much of that standards community. I sat in on IEEE meetings for the 802.11g standard and saw shocked to learn the
    • Not bad for CSIRO (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As a patent holder, you are not required to (ever) speak up prior to someone using your invention if you're not involed. 802.11a/b/g are defined by IEEE. Maybe CSIRO isn't involved in the IEEE - they don't have to and there shouldn't be any need. IEEE is a standards body, CSIRO does R&D.

      The number of cases where a patent holder waits until a patent is worth something before doing anything are numerous: GIF and RSA to name but two well known cases.

      It is similar for OpenBSD and CARP (vs Cisco's VRR

      • by grapeape (137008)
        Well a few corrections..

        Dr Iain Collings CSIRO's Science lead in Communications and Signal Processing (the ones who came up with the patent) not only participates he is a member of the IEEE Communications Society Communications Theory Committee.

        ODFM and DSSS came about in the 80's (the technologies that 802.11 is based on.

        The CSIRO was sued after it filed suit against Buffalo Wireless not before. Buffalo was sued in Feb of 05 and in May of 05 Dell, Microsoft, Intel, HP and Netgear all filed suit on the sam
  • 10 years too long (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nrlightfoot (607666) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:53PM (#16860892) Homepage
    Considering the rate of innovation these days, a 20 year patent period is far too long. A good first step for patent reform would be to reduce the length of patents by half or more.
    • Just because a company is ready to patent something doesn't mean they're ready to produce something right away. Reducing the amount of time a patent is good for reduces the value so companies won't bother with R&D nearly as much. Patents need to be given out on a stricter basis.
    • by VdG (633317)
      There may be a good argument for reducing the length of patents, but this isn't it.

      If the rate of innovation is so high, lengthy patents would be irrelevent. If your invention is superseded in five years it really doesn't matter that you've got exclusive rights to it for another 15.

      In fact, as this case shows innovative patents can be relevant for long periods. This one's ten years old. In areas outside IT I suspect things could be useful for even longer in many cases.
  • Reciprocity? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bdwoolman (561635)

    ...as a foreign government body meant it was immune from lawsuits

    IANAL but I thought that if you are immune to suits you also cannot bring them. I know from experience that if you have diplomatic immunity you cannot be sued in a country of your accredited residence (nice), but you also cannot bring suit there. Also did I read correctly that this suit started when MS Intel et al brought suit to have the patent invalidated and that the Australians simply counter sued and then won. Talk about putting a fo

  • Not over yet... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kansas1051 (720008) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @06:57PM (#16860972)
    Although this is certainly a big victory for CSIRO, the battle over this patent is far from over. Almost all "big" patent suits are appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is the appellate court that has jurisdiction over patent appeals. The Federal Circuit reverses district court decisions (like the decision mentioned in the story) about 60% of the time. It also takes several years to move through the appellate process, which means it will be quite some time before Buffalo pays a cent to CSIRO.
  • Who's liable here? 802.11 chipset manufacturers? OEMs who include those chipsets in their products (wireless routers, 802.11-equipped laptops and handhelds)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:01PM (#16861928)
    Basically all countries of the world will be assisting Australians pay their taxation bill and that works for me.

    Capitalism at its best. Thank you all very much...

    A Happy Aussie
  • I bet Al Gore* is jealous.

    The opposition must have had technological morons as lawyers. There's got to be prior art on this. Modulated radio itself is just a way to "exchange large amounts of information wirelessly at high speed" -- a wireless network is simply a specific use of radio, and it's not as if wireless networking itself didn't exist before the 1990s. Military communications spring immediately to mind -- TADIL/Link 11 has been around since AT LEAST the 80s. Just because you use change it to "h
  • "802.11a/g" (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quantam (870027) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:56PM (#16863208) Homepage
    It's Australian for "OWNED"
  • And just to show off, they're now using wireless technology in their WIS (Wearable Instrument Shirt). Its the shirt every air guitarist wants.
  • It should be noted that the CSIRO had a spin-off called RADIATA, and that they had access to this patent. RADIATA was later bought by CISCO, so it seems to me at a first look that CISCO is protected from this patent.. So Buy CISCO....

    D.

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