Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Boston University wants a piece of Apple's income pie, sues over 1997 patent

Apple has been extremely successful in its court battles against Samsung. Now we will see if that success extends to a battle with Boston University. On Tuesday, Boston University sued Apple over a patent issued to one of its professors in 1997, it was reported on Friday.

According to the filing, the Apple products in question -- and the list is wide-ranging, including flagship products such as the iPhone 5, the iPad and the MacBook Air -- contain a “gallium nitride thin film semiconductor device." Professor Theodore Moustakas applied for the patent in 1995, and received it in 1997, which means it is still under patent protection until 2015.

Not only is BU seeking an injunction banning the sale of many Apple products, it is also asking for an accounting of Apple’s income from the last few years. The implication is obvious: BU wants Apple to hand over a piece of the pie (pun intended) from its earnings as a result of these products.

You'd wonder if other companies, including those which are direct competitors of Apple, also breech this patent? In BU's opinion, the answer is yes. BU has filed the same complaint against eight other companies in the past year, including two giants, and Samsung.

The words patent trolling come to mind, but Boston University is thought of as a reputable institution, not a troll. In addition, one source familiar with the suit said that the university plans to illustrate that at least one other company pays a licensing fee for the patent.

That could earn BU points in court, said analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates. He added,
Courts can be irrational in these cases. You get these ridiculous judgments sometimes and they may think of Apple as a big, rich company that doesn't deserve all that money.
The most likely outcome would be some sort of settlement, assuming Apple decides BU's patent has merit.

It is unclear where the and Samsung lawsuits stand, or why BU waited so long to file against Apple.

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