back to article Boston U claims LED patent, files against tech giants

Boston University, which last year assessed the cost of “patent trolling” in the American economy at $US29 billion, has fired its litigation gun at a slew of tech companies – including Apple. Since October 2012 – incidentally the month in which its cost-of-trolling research was released – the university has been filing lawsuits …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

What is worse than patent trolling, trolls that sue companies that have only included a finished product in their device. In this case it would be a screen that uses LED's. Apple, Samsung, etc. didn't make the LED's themselves. So if there is any infringement it was by the company that actually produced the LED's, not the companies that used them.

7
2
Silver badge

I'd say it depends upon the patents they have. If it's US only then it is perfectly reasonable the university would go after the finished product since it may not be in violation to make the device in China. The violation then occurs at importation.

4
1
Anonymous Coward

This may of course open to doors to be counter sued..........

1
0
Boffin

Method patents

If the patents are of fabrication methods, and the methods were applied outwith the patented zone, would there be any infraction?

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Unfortunately you would be wrong.

"Since October 2012 – incidentally the month in which its cost-of-trolling research was released – the university has been filing lawsuits centred around the semiconductor technology used to make LEDs"

Apple and the others did not make the LED's and thus did not infringe upon any patents. It is also common for a patent holder to get their patent in more than one country. This is to protect their rights in various countries. If the university didn't file in China and that is where the infringing is taking place, then that is their problem. If the university did file in China, their case is against the manufacturers. Chances are, they want the fish with the deeper pockets and that is why the are going after the manufacturers of the finished products which in reality either didn't product ant part (hardware) of the finished product or a very little of it.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: would there be any infraction?

Yes. If I happen to live near the border of say Canada and I go to Canada and buy stolen goods from a guy who crosses the border into the US to steal them, I'm still liable for receiving stolen goods if the US guy finds them in my domicile.

Now the penalty for the infraction might vary depending on how involved the target company was in the infraction. If they just specified LEDs and there is a non-infiringing LED which was available that might be a lower penalty than specifying the LEDs in such a way that only non-infringing LEDs would meet the requirements. Also, part of the usual process for filing these complaints is for the lawyer of the plaintiff to send an official letter to the defendant before filing charges. If the offense was inadvertent it allows both parties to work out a good faith agreement to pay the license fees without getting the courts involved.

Personally, since LEDs have been around since the Dark Ages when I was in high school, I think this one stinks, but it looks like it comports with current law. Of course I may be missing some detail in the patent which makes it new and relevant.

0
0
Silver badge

Timing?

Were these patents found down the back of a filing cabinet during an office clear out? Why the timing?

6
0
Pirate

Re: Timing?

It was likely a facepalm moment - when while researching patent trolling, they realized they could get in on the action themselves.

15
0
Silver badge

Re: Timing?

" It was likely a facepalm moment - when while researching patent trolling, they realized they could get in on the action themselves. "

Of course, what with the funding cuts to education and research to help finance the War on Terra... I mean Terror, Universities have got to make up the shortfall somehow.

6
2

Re: Timing?

> Were these patents found down the back of a filing cabinet during an office clear out? Why the timing?

They were in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying "Beware of Mac OSX 10.5". Had they ever thought of going into advertising?

11
0

Re: Timing?

"Let's see now - the total cost of patent trolling adds up to ... ooooh, that much, eh? Hey guys, do we have any patents lying around?"

3
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: "Beware of Mac OSX 10.5"

I LOL'd. Geek humour FTW!

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: Timing?

Actually this is a good question, as given the difference between the Priority Date and the Filing Date, particularly with respect to the '703 patent, it would seem that these were at some stage "submarine patents".

So Boston U gamed the US patent system in the past...

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Timing?

It's certainly not trolling, if it's a genuine patent on a genuine invention. If Philips, Cree etc. are paying royalties on the patents, that suggests to me that this is the case. (In the case of Cree, that's a royalty on a large percentage of everything they make). These are large companies that are perfectly capable of out-lawyering a university if they feel they have a case (and probably even if they didn't, but I'll assume that they are honorable and/or care about the PR).

3
3
Silver badge
WTF?

Re: Timing?

It certainly is trolling, because Apple don't make LEDs.

They buy them.

From people like Philips, Cree etc... Who are already paying the royalties...

This is reasonably likely to get a one-line response along the lines of "We buy them from X. Talk to them. BTW, our legal costs were Y, pay up!"

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Timing?

Presumably Apple buy LEDs from companies in (say) China that aren't paying royalties. If they were buying royalty-paid proucts from (say) Cree, there would be no case.

I'd like to know whether Apple got a cease-and-desist letter some years ago, or not.

But even if not, they're using a patented technology on which royalties have not been paid. I think the way the law works, the aggrieved party sues Apple and Apple can sue their supplier in turn. (Except, the supplier is in China? Well, that's the choice they made).

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Timing?

"It was likely a facepalm moment - when while researching patent trolling, they realized they could get in on the action themselves."

Like a real-world experiment to accompany the research. Nice.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: They buy them. From people like Philips, Cree etc.

Doubtful.

If they did, that's the sort of thing that would be resolved by sending documentation that their parts are being purchased from a manufacturer who pays the royalty. (Not much point in Cree et al. paying for the patent rights if they can't sell an unencumbered product.)

More likely the Chinese vendor supplying the parts to another Chinese vendor aren't paying the patent fees. Because since it's a US patent, they aren't subject to them and it's all legal inside China. But once it enters the US, it is a whole different story. At that point, the outfit receiving the imports becomes liable.

0
0
Silver badge

Oh, and that knowledge comes from an odd patent situation with an OEM supplier I once worked for. They had a patent for something in the US. Somebody in France saw the idea, made a trivial change and patent it in France. Our company tried to overturn the French patent but lost. So when we sold our stuff in France, we had to pay the patent fee even though the idea originated with us, but there was no fee for us outside of France. This was all pre-EU, so I am going back quite a bit.

0
0
Silver badge

So who still thinks software patents are a special case?

All patents are trollable.

What about instruction set patents (eg. those held by Intel, ARM, ...)? An instruction set is just an algorithm expressed in hardware. Should those be patentable?

Why should there be a distinction between washing machine logic expressed in relays and mechanical levers vs the exact same algorithm expressed in software?

Food for thought no?

2
6
Anonymous Coward

Re: So who still thinks software patents are a special case?

> An instruction set is just an algorithm expressed in hardware.

Perhaps they used to be. Now, the instruction set is implemented through microcode. In other words, the instruction set is software.

> Why should there be a distinction between washing machine logic expressed in relays and mechanical levers vs the exact same algorithm expressed in software?

The washing machine is a physical object. The washing machine patent would be for the "relays and mechanical levers" and not for the logic. Another manufacturer could design and build a different set of "relays and mechanical levers" that implemented exactly the same logic and not infringe the first patent. If the manufacturer patented the logic (software patent), as opposed to the relays/levers (physical patent), then any implementation of that logic, no matter how innovative, would be infringing.

Logic is a mathematical construct. All software is an expression of that logic. Therefore all software is a mathematical construct and should not be patentable.

10
0
Trollface

Re: So who still thinks software patents are a special case?

Logic is a mathematical construct. All software is an expression of that logic. Therefore all software is a mathematical construct and should not be patentable.

The processing that goes on in your brain can be expressed as a mathematical construct. An idea is an example of the processing that goes on in your brain. Therefore an idea is a mathematical construct and is not patentable.

0
3
Ru

Re: So who still thinks software patents are a special case?

All patents are trollable.

What makes you think this particular case is Just Another Patent Troll? This isn't a 'round corner' job, and it isn't a stupidly wide 'we've patented the LED!' claim either. This is a specific inventive step, presumably with actual real-world benefits given that people have bothered to license it already.

Now, perhaps you think the trolling is because they've waited a long time to spring the lawsuit? Well, how easy do you think it is to check each and every LED-using device built in or imported into the US for a "highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride film'?

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: So who still thinks software patents are a special case?

You are correct that ideas are not patentable. They never have been.

Patents protect inventions, copyright protects expression. Neither of these are ideas.

> The processing that goes on in your brain can be expressed as a mathematical construct.

Express it and claim your Nobel prize.

At the lowest level the processor executes the code by running it through simple logic gates. This means that the code is a function of the logic gates, that is, a mathematical formula.

Your brain, on the other hand, doesn't use simple logic gates.

3
0
Silver badge
Pint

Oi!

These Register's Comment Forums have gone all 'flat' GUI scheme.

Just like Fisher-Price's Windows 8 Metro.

Just like Apple's iOS 7.

Just like everyone.

Lemmings.

15
1

Re: Oi!

Indeed but that would be fine, if they wouldnt have removed all the colour and made it all black/greyish.. Looks like they hired the colourblind designed from Visual Studio 2012, because that worked out brilliantly well!

8
0
Thumb Down

Re: Oi!

I would have thought the mood on these forums would suggest to TPTB that it's a bad idea.

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: Oi!

Yeah, this new scheme is horrible...

Guys, just because you've paid a UI/graphics "designer" to tell you how things should look now, it doesn't mean they're right. In fact, my experience is that they rarely are right in terms of actually user happiness.

Can we vote to go back to the old system. Here's mine >

11
0
Silver badge

Re: Oi!

Yes the new layout is quite "eww" IMHO, I started a thread on one of the sub-forums, an El Reg bod has replied:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/07/01/Haku_Eww_What_have_you_done_to_the_layout/

1
0
Anonymous Coward

They should definitely ban all LED products of any kind across his state immediately. And publish his patent lawsuit details, home address and photo on large billboards. ;)

4
1

Which you won't be able to see in the evening, because traditional lamp designs are bad mmkay.

0
1
Silver badge

Re: you won't be able to see in the evening,

I realize you missed the sarcasm, but that was sort of his point.

BTW: You might not be able to see at night, but I will. Stocked up on the old reliable stuff before it all got bought out. And you laughed about my underground bunker.

0
0

misleading - and should be thrown out of court

it seems that the "patents" are for processes involved in the manufacture of modern LEDs not LEDs themselves.

since the LED was invented by some russian bloke in the 1920s and was first mass produced by General Electric in the 1960s they might have a difficult time proving patents on the objects themselves.

in my opinion these suits should be thrown out of court as they should be aimed at the manufacturers of the LEDs as opposed to those using them - apple etc are using an item based upon many sources of prior art, the manufacturers are those making the LEDS using the processes claimed in the patent suit.

6
0

This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

Re: misleading - and should be thrown out of court

i feel the MANUFACTURERS who are abusing the patents should pay - not the suckers who bought the components in good faith

your argument is astoundingly simplistic - should you then be sued for using devices which contain LEDs? because thats where your argument is leading

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: misleading - and should be thrown out of court

>i feel the MANUFACTURERS who are abusing the patents should pay - not the suckers who bought the components in good faith

Maybe, but you are assuming that Apple et al did buy the components in good faith and didn't just happen to accidentally overlook the small issue of paperwork...

>should you then be sued for using devices which contain LEDs?

Basically yes, remember that was the reasoning behind MS going after major users of Linux/Android rather than directly going for Google etc.

0
2

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: misleading - and should be thrown out of court

@RU,

Wrong. Many patent holders file for patents in various countries just for that reason. If BU didn't, that is their problem. How is BU going to win a case when they are going to talk about the manufacturing process that they have a patent on the and the plaintiffs stating we don't manufacture any LED's and thus didn't infringe upon any LED's manufacturing process.

4
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: misleading - and should be thrown out of court

"The patents are on one specific manufacturing technique, not a general one. That appears to be all the plaintiffs are claiming. Do you feel that improvements to existing technology should never be patentable?"

If the patents are on a manufacturing technique, and they are not valid where the LEDs were made, then no patent infringement has occurred. Importing them is not manufacturing them. Tough bananas for paten holder.

"Because that basically says 'fuck you' to every domestic manufacturer"

Lots of things do that. Take cheap labour, do Apple get in trouble because some of their workers don't get California minimum wage?

0
2
g e
Silver badge
Meh

Hahahahahahaha!

America.

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: Hahahahahahaha!

I shouldn't laugh too much, the leaks from the EU's preparation for the EU-US Trade Agreement negotiation contain some worrying features...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

What the hell is the point of trying to ban production?

Its makes sense for Samsung and Apple to try and get each other's products banned, because it would cut competition. But why the hell would Boston U want to do it? They don't gain anything from that. They should be sueing for money, surely?

Also, that first patent has already expired. It was filed in Jan 1995, before the time limit change, so it expired 17 years later in Jan 2012. I've pretty dubious about them being able to make a case on an expired patent (though the other one was filed in 2005, so its good to 2025).

0
0
Silver badge

Re: But why the hell would Boston U want to do it?

Well, if the threads here are to be believed, because it's legal for the Chinese to manufacture the product, so they can't sue the original source of the infringement. They can however sue to prevent those manufacturers to be able to import the offending part. And that means suing the listed defendants because they are in fact acting as the importers.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Statute of Limitations...?

There should be a limit to the time after the filing of a patent that the holder has a right to lodge a claim infringement.

Or are Boston U really saying "We didn't know that our patent was being infringed for the last decade"?

1
0
Facepalm

Re: Statute of Limitations...?

There already is... It's called the life of a Patent...

1
0

Not really enough details in the text

We are all kind of jumping to the conclusion that this is trolling, but there could be details we are missing. For one thing there are companies licensing this tech so its obviously not a completely trolling patent. Its actually being used for products.

Still I agree that going after the end product seems wrong when the suit should be against the manufacturers of the individual items that are (probably) in violation. Unless of course the firms being attacked are designing the LED themselves and specifying the manufacturing method and only outsourcing manufacture which would put the onus back on the designers I would think as being the orchestrators of the patent violation.

Can El Reg provide more info along this line?

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Not really enough details in the text

Just because there are companies that are licensing it doesn't make it a valid patent. Case in point:

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/07/itc-kodak-imaging-patent-is-invalid-apple-and-rim-off-the-hook/

"Kodak had originally sued both Apple and RIM in 2010, claiming the companies' smartphones violated a patent related to capturing a high-resolution image while previewing a lower resolution "motion" version on a preview screen. Kodak had successfully argued that Samsung and LG violated the same patent the year prior, resulting in multi-million dollar settlements from both companies."

More importantly, that patent:

"Kodak has said it licenses its digital imaging technology to about 30 companies, including handset makers like LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. All of those companies pay royalties to Kodak." So just because there are people who license it, doesn't mean the parent is valid.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

I wonder if, say, Jeri Ellsworth infringes any patents in her semiconductor hacking activities. Do patents apply to personal use?

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums