Boston University is requesting a ban on Apple Inc. leading devices including the iPhone 5, iPad and Macbook Air, purportedly for patent violations.
The Trustees of Boston University filed a complaint this week with Massachusetts federal court alleging that Apple Inc. products contain a “gallium nitride thin film semiconductor device” in which the University owns the patent.
The component in question powers the LED in the iPhone 5, iPad and Macbook Air. The device is also expected to be used in the iPhone 6 which is expected to have a dual LED flash which will improve the photographs taken with the phone.
In the complaint filed this week, the Trustees asked the court to forbid Apple Inc. from making, having made, selling, offering for sale, distributing and/or using products that use the device in question including the accused products.
In the papers filed with the court, the inventor of the device is identified as Theodore D. Moustakas, Ph.D., Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at BU, the device is referred to as 738 patent. According to the complaint Boston University owns by assignment the entire right, title, and interest in and to 738 patent, including the sole right to sue for the past and present patent infringements’
Dr. Moustakas applied for the patent in 1995 and it was granted in 1997. The lifespan of a patent in the U.S. is approximately 20 years; therefore, the patent will not expire until 2017 and the University owns all rights to it.
The first iphones were released on the market in 2007. The iphones like many other smartphones use the blue laser light/LED- “gallium nitride thin film semiconductor.”
The Trustees are also asking for damages to include past and present profits from all products that use the component in question.
The documents filed in court this week also allege the infringement has caused substantial and irreparable damage to the University and is demanding a trial by jury.
The court documents state that Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States, and one of the largest employers in Boston, with more than 10,000 faculty and staff and over 33,000 students. It conducts a diverse range of interdisciplinary, collaborative and innovative research projects across a broad spectrum of academic departments, programs, centers and institutes, including research in the field of electrical and computer engineering. BU faculty members have won five Nobel Prizes and BU has been awarded hundreds of United States Patents, including U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (the “738 patent”).
If the alleged complaint is true, Apple is not the only company to infringe upon this device. Several other companies have been named including Amazon and Samsung. Certainly if their has been an infringement these companies are at fault, but Boston University certainly waited a long time before filing a complaint.
While customers are awaiting the release of new devices by Apple Inc., if they have indeed infringed upon Boston University, and are using 738 patent, this could be the end to the iPhone 5, iPad and Macbook Air and possibly delay or prevent the release of the iPhone 6.
By: Veverly Edwards