Boston University filed a patent in 1995 that is now at the center of lawsuit asking for a ban on Apple product sales and seeking profits from sales over the past few years. This is part of a trend of patent infringement lawsuits that are defining the tech industry and unfortunately are hurting the rest of us.
The patent in question is centered on a “gallium nitride thin film semiconductor device” which was patented by Professor Theodore Moustakas in 1995 and is still protected until 2015. While it is clear that inventors need to be protected and companies like Apple (or Samsung) shouldn’t be allowed to take ideas and sell them without compensation, there has to be a better way of handling situations like this.
The complaint, filed in the Massachusetts Federal Court, would bring millions of dollars, perhaps even billions, to Professor Moustakas and Boston University. It is very common for university professors to create intellectual property and when they do, their university gets a very healthy cut which is why Boston University is at the helm of the lawsuit.
The issue with patents is that in our current system of litigation is used as a strategic business model instead of just protecting intellectual property. It is likely that Apple will try to settle this or find fault with the claim and attack the patent but the time and money that are about to be spent on this are not going to further the field of mobile technology. Patent litigation makes innovation more difficult and certainly is expensive.
If Apple illegally used tech without licensing it and did it on purpose then they should pay the consequences. If Professor Moustakas and Boston University are seeking a big payoff under false pretenses then they should face consequences too. The patent system needs an overhaul and perhaps this will be a catalyst for change.