Talking tech since 2003

Considering that Apple has been embroiled in a seemingly never ending suit against Samsung over alleged patent infringements, it seems more than a little ironic that the House that Jobs Built should be hit with a patent lawsuit over technology used to make some of its most popular products, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air. But what makes this story even more interesting is that the suit doesn’t come from a rival tech company, but rather a college campus on the opposite end of the country.

According to an article in the Boston Herald, Boston University has filed its suit against Apple over the use of an invention patented by one of its computer engineering professors, Theodore Moustakas, way back in 1995. Two years later in 1997, the USPTO issued the patent for Moustakas’ “highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films,” which, says the article, is a fancy way of saying “electronic semiconductor.” That may be so—to me it sounds like something edited out of an episode Doctor Who. Just saying.

The article also quotes Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates, a Boston-area tech marketing firm, who says that the university could be awarded as much as $75 million—with the right courtroom conditions, of course:

“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.”

It’s also important to note that, as the article points out, Apple isn’t the first firm to be targeted by Boston University over this alleged infringement. Apparently the college has brought eight identical suits against companies like Samsung and Amazon in the last year alone. If nothing else, the attorneys representing Boston University over the patent clearly feel pretty strongly about the possibilities for a win.

On the flip side, it’s also possible that Apple and the other firms may decide that it could be less expensive to simply settle out of court and make this news go away. And to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what happened. After all, how many patent suits does Apple want to fight at a time?


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