Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Netgear have joined forces to object to a patent for wireless technology owned by an agency of the Australian government.

The companies have launched a case in the US in an attempt to prevent Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) collecting royalties on a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) patent, which was granted in 1996.

CSIRO is the national research agency of the Australian Government.

Five time, five time, WLAN speeds

The patent is: "Considered essential for implementing wireless local area networks that comply with several IEEE standards, and is now a standard feature of most notebook computers and many other devices," said CSIRO. The system makes it possible to increase the speed of a WLAN by a "factor of five".

CSIRO CEO Dr Geoff Garrett stressed his company's long experience of innovation: "For example, as far back as July 1969, CSIRO helped bring the television pictures of the Apollo 11 Moon landing to a worldwide TV audience of 600 million people. In 1970, we helped Apollo Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise get home on Apollo 13 by making our Parkes radio telescope available to communicate with the stricken spacecraft."

Dr Garrett said: "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."