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Apple, Amazon, Microsoft & More Settle Lawsuits With Boston University

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the stop-using-my-stuff dept.

Microsoft 129

curtwoodward writes "Boston University hadn't been very aggressive with intellectual property lawsuits in the past. But that changed in 2012, when the school began suing the biggest names in consumer tech, alleging infringement of a patent on blue LEDs — a patent that, no coincidence, is set to expire at the end of 2014. As of today, about 25 big tech names have now settled the lawsuits, using 'defensive' patent firm RPX. A dozen or so more defendants are probably headed that way. And BU is no longer a quiet patent holder."

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FB... you're next (5, Funny)

gwstuff (2067112) | about 10 months ago | (#45972053)

For messing with us in the opening scene of The Social Network.

Re:FB... you're next (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 10 months ago | (#45973277)

You don't have to study, you go to BU!

Patent on blue LEDs? (1, Funny)

ShaunC (203807) | about 10 months ago | (#45972079)

Oh, I get it. They're blue. That's totally non-obvious.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (5, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | about 10 months ago | (#45972123)

The patent isn't on the mere idea of blue LEDs, but on how precisely to make a particlar blue LED, which was not obvious. Mere ideas cannot be patented, contrary to what many Slashdot posters would like you to believe.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (4, Funny)

tomhath (637240) | about 10 months ago | (#45972253)

Mere ideas cannot be patented, contrary to what many Slashdot posters would like you to believe

You mean someone couldn't patent an idea like buying something by clicking on a button? Oh wait...

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972311)

Boston. Catholics are every bit as greedy as Jews, but unlike Jews can blend in to the American population due to their lack of hooknose and names that don't end in -berg and -stein.

Which makes them all the more insidious. Stop the gilded menace before its too late!

-- Ethanol-fueled

You're confusing BU with BC (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 10 months ago | (#45973063)

BC, aka Boston College, is the catholic college that's not actually in Boston. BU is the research institute in Boston that runs an undergrad school on the side.

Greater Boston is filled w/ research universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973363)

BU is the research institute in Boston that runs an undergrad school on the side.

BU is one of nine R1 research universities in the metropolitan Boston area, accounting for about 10% of all R1 universities in existence (the Research Universities 1 term is strictly American). There are 58 institutions of higher education in metropolitan Boston [wikipedia.org] .

BU is ranked 19th best in the country for research while MIT is #2 and Harvard is #5, so BU isn't "the research institute in Boston" either since it's the third best in the area. (according to the "Top American Research Universities" list from The Center for Measuring University Performance 2012 report [PDF] [asu.edu] ).

Re:Greater Boston is filled w/ research universiti (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 9 months ago | (#45974851)

Well if we're going to be technical MIT and Harvard aren't in Boston, they're in Cambridge. But to be fair it's probably would have been better if I had written "BU is a research institute the runs an undergrad school on the side."

Re:You're confusing BU with BC (1)

2fuf (993808) | about 9 months ago | (#45975253)

and BS is what I think of patents

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972423)

You can patent it, but it doesn't mean it'll hold up in court.

You can patent the idea of immortality pills, but if actually discover the formula for immortality pills; who do you think the court is going to side with?

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 10 months ago | (#45972605)

Big pharma. They're the ones with the most money and lawyers.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

zixxt (1547061) | about 10 months ago | (#45972429)

Mere ideas cannot be patented, contrary to what many Slashdot posters would like you to believe.

Cant tell if serious or funny.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about 10 months ago | (#45973013)

Ask apple that question about patenting idea's, they have a patent on phones of rounded rectangle design.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 10 months ago | (#45973117)

There's a difference between design patents and utility patents.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973901)

The patent isn't on the mere idea of blue LEDs, but on how precisely to make a particlar blue LED, which was not obvious. Mere ideas cannot be patented, contrary to what many Slashdot posters would like you to believe.

My point would have involved the process since, its like no one else would have thought of this [sarcasm]? This shouldn't have been patentable... To bad you cannot get people to come forward who had already thought of the process/es before the idiots at the Patent office decided to award a patent on something that most can agree would have come along in a short time anyway.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

Yi Ding (635572) | about 10 months ago | (#45972135)

Making the LEDs blue is actually a non-trivial bit of engineering. The patent isn't about LEDs being blue, it's the engineering behind making them blue. This is a totally valid thing to patent, just like the hybrid engine patents Toyota has.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (5, Informative)

Yi Ding (635572) | about 10 months ago | (#45972147)

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode#The_blue_and_white_LED [wikipedia.org]

The guy who made the first blue LED won a 1.3 million dollar prize. I'm assuming the reason BU is able to collect royalties is that their method is the one that's being used commercially. Look at the description in wikipedia: Does p-doping Indium Galium Nitride seem like a trivial process?

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (5, Insightful)

dacut (243842) | about 10 months ago | (#45973129)

Does p-doping Indium Gallium Nitride seem like a trivial process?

It's trivial with the right equipment and materials. Figuring out that you need to p-dope IGN to make an LED, on the other hand...

Reminds me of the story about the fancy car which, no matter what the shop mechanics tried, wouldn't start. So they call in an old mechanic buddy who had retired a few years ago to come take a look. He studies the engine carefully, making a note of the various fluid levels and temperatures as well as the sounds made by the engine. After going at it for a few minutes, he takes a bit of chalk, marks a spot on the engine, and then hits it with his hammer. With that, the engine roared to life.

He then handed the customer a bill for $100. Aghast, the customer replies, "I'm not paying you $100 for hitting the engine with a hammer!"

The old mechanic replies, "Hitting the engine was free. Knowing where to hit it is $100."

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973595)

#99803609476 Method and apparatus for starting internal combustion engine by imparting of blunt force impact to said engine (on a computer)

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (3, Informative)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 10 months ago | (#45973393)

The guy who made the first blue LED won a 1.3 million dollar prize.

Long before modern efficient blue LEDs were invented there were blue LEDs made by various firms, including silicon carbide LEDs commercialized by Cree in 1989 and tinkered with by others, and even a silicon-based blue LED from Sony. They were inefficient and many of them were expensive, so they weren't popular. The first observation of blue LED action was made in 1923, before anyone understood what was happening. In the late 1960s some blue silicon carbide LEDs were deliberately developed. In the early 1970s, RCA made (but never commercialized) blue and violet GaN LEDs. http://www.sslighting.net/news/features/maruska_blue_led_history.pdf [sslighting.net]

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (4, Informative)

Adriax (746043) | about 10 months ago | (#45972167)

Oh I know, crazy huh? How could they let this patent get by with the clearly obvious prior art of all those blue LEDs that helped light up gadgets in the 80s.

Not like every consumer product featuring LEDs prior to 1994 or so was using red, green, yellow, and amber because depositing the gallium mix required for the blue spectrum bandgap could only be done on a ruby substrate at the time due to the normal process destroying a silicon substrate, thereby making blue LEDs insanely expensive.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

richlv (778496) | about 10 months ago | (#45972287)

did they sue at the time when they saw the first blue leds or did they wait ?

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

drhank1980 (1225872) | about 10 months ago | (#45972481)

This is just the latest round of lawsuits on this I assume they are trying to get as much cash as possible before it expires. I went to BU for my undergrad (even took solid state physics from Theodore Moustakas) and there was a similar undisclosed settlement in 2001-2002 about the same manufacturing process. The patent is not so much about having a blue LED but having a economical way to manufacture them on a mass scale.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972669)

I'm really more surprised that Amazon and Microsoft are engineering and manufacturing their own LEDs instead of just buying off the shelf.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (4, Informative)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 10 months ago | (#45972787)

In the United States you do not have to be the manufacturer to be sued for patent violation. Users are also at risk, especially if they have deeper pockets. Daft, but true.

35 U.S.C. 271 Infringement of patent. (a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States, or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

(Emphasis mine) I am sure there will be a long discussion about whether someone using a device made with the patented process is themselves "using" the patented process.

Re: Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973409)

My heels have rounded corners on them. You better not tell apple that I use them every day.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 10 months ago | (#45973425)

I suppose there's some chance that those being sued now could in turn sue the manufacturer. It might depend on the particular nature of the contract between them and the manufacturer.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 10 months ago | (#45973501)

Doesn't matter. You make use of a blue LED technology you must make sure that you license the patent. The date of expiration doesn't matter either for violations that occur during the term of the patent. The recent newegg case about SSL was for past violations of an expired patent.

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (1)

richlv (778496) | about 9 months ago | (#45974967)

sure, i was more thinking of them intentionally sitting on it and waiting for market use to increase

Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45975215)

Just curious. Let's assume that device using LEDs is manufactured in US, by using LEDs sold by US distributor. Shouldn't the distributor (I'm assuming that the distributor imports said LEDs from whereever) be responsible to license patent, and not device manufacturer?
(this assumption is not relevant in this specific case, but I'm thinking in general)

more is coming (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 10 months ago | (#45972085)

Our college system trolls students with unneeded but course required new book editions. It trolls students with massive debt. It trolls science with god knows how many crap papers just became there is an constant push to publish, publish, publish. Why shouldn't they troll patents too?

The murican postsecondary education system, the troll under the bridge to your future.

Re:more is coming (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972151)

What did you think would happen if you hit the American post-secondary education system with massive, across the board budget cuts?

American colleges used to put out their research for (effectively) free to the public and corporations benefited HUGELY. Now its time to pay the piper and hes looking to collect interest.

Re:more is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972229)

Yeah... because that just happened how long ago? How long have these abuses been going on? Stop trying to politic the problem first and foremost and maybe you'll get to the heart of the problem.

Re:more is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972297)

Depending on the state, within the past 3 years?

I'm not sure how this is an abuse. Boston University did the research, patented it and finally got around to exercising their patent rights. Don't wanna get sued? Pay the patent holder.

Re:more is coming (2)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45972571)

Depending on the state, within the past 3 years?

I'm not sure how this is an abuse. Boston University did the research, patented it and finally got around to exercising their patent rights. Don't wanna get sued? Pay the patent holder.

Well lets track it back to who funded the research shall we?

Its not like universities wake up one day and say, oh, lets spend a few years and several hundred million and fart around with some of these cute LEDs.

I bet you there's not only state money in it, and federal money in it, but also maybe some big-corp bucks too. But I'm betting 95% public funds of one sort or another.

Re:more is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972665)

Um ok? Then the big-corps that chipped in get a piece of the pie. Did Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and the others chip in? No? Then fuck them. (And no, simply paying taxes doesn't count. Otherwise, I and every other taxing paying U.S. citizen, want a piece of the pie)

State and federal money? Well government can't compete against private business right? But the parent also wants to withdraw government subsidies from colleges, that means colleges would become private entities. Private entities are legally entitled to compete and defend their own patents. (ie. Boston University sues Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and others)

Re:more is coming (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45972943)

Um ok? Then the big-corps that chipped in get a piece of the pie. Did Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and the others chip in? No? Then fuck them. (And no, simply paying taxes doesn't count. Otherwise, I and every other taxing paying U.S. citizen, want a piece of the pie)

You just don't get it do you?
If the project was funded by federal monies it belongs to the people of the US, and the University has no business taking a patent in its own name.
So, Yes, if the case of it being paid for by government grants, all citizens do get a piece of that pie, by free use of the technology.

Re:more is coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973347)

So, Yes, if the case of it being paid for by government grants, all citizens do get a piece of that pie, by free use of the technology.

And yet corporations aren't paying a penny in patent licensing fees. Not only that, corporations are charging citizens to use the patent THEY ALREADY PAID FOR.

YOU obviously don't get it.

Re:more is coming (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45973489)

If the corporations WERE paying licensing fees, that cost would be passed to the consumer who would THEN be paying twice for the rights to use the technology.

Corporations will NOW have to raise their prices to cover these double dipping license fees, and the consumers get to pay AGAIN for the technology produced at public expense with tax payer money.

Son, stay in school.

Re:more is coming (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973597)

Well lets track it back to who funded the research shall we?

Yes, let's do that indeed.

Its not like universities wake up one day and say, oh, lets spend a few years and several hundred million and fart around with some of these cute LEDs.

That's actually pretty much exactly what happens. That's why university research is so valuable, because it doesn't have to prove itself successful before it's even done.

I bet you there's not only state money in it, and federal money in it, but also maybe some big-corp bucks too. But I'm betting 95% public funds of one sort or another.

Then you should pay up, because you lost that bet. There's no outstanding federal interest in this invention, and your WAG of 95% is way off. Private schools like BU aren't required to disclose their funding in great detail, but university research is typically around 80/20 sponsored/general. In 2009 they claimed to have a $356 million sponsored research program, and the federal expenditure report indicates they received $255M in federal funding. Federal funding was 71% of their sponsored research, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-55% of their total research program. Private schools don't typically get much state money.

But if you look at a well-documented system, albeit much larger and with a more active licensing portfolio, the University of California in 2011 generated $182 million in licensing revenue. That funds quite a bit of research. But that's just 3.3% of UC's 2011 research expenditures of $5.4 billion, 61% of which was sponsored by public sources (50% federal, 11% California). 25% was industry-sponsored research, and the balance from student fees and gifts/endowments.

So the question is, how many patentable inventions get licensed instead of freely distributed? The answer is about 1 in 5. 80% made available for free as a service to the public and the research community is a pretty good return for only ponying up 61% of the costs, so you really don't have anything to complain about.

That 1 in 5 number is based on their report: in 2011, UC licensed around 300 patents, but filed over 1000, two-thirds of its 1500 disclosed patentable inventions. This makes it a typical year--UC's overall portfolio reported approximately 10,000 active inventions with just 2,100 under exclusive license. Further, any invention that involved any federal money has to be reviewed by the federal sponsor before it can be patented, and a patent is only filed if there is a private sector licensee willing to cover the costs of the patent application and the commercialization work. That's where most of them die, never making any money because they end up not being commercially viable anyway. Only a fraction of that 20% actually ends up being an invention of interest to society.

If UC were to stop licensing patents altogether, it would need another $190M per year in public funding to maintain the same research program. Nationwide, university licensing has offset public budget cuts to the tune of $2 billion per year. If you're ready to write a check, I'm sure virtually every university would happily give up having to chase money through licensing, since the overhead on a patent filing and license is a lot higher than federal research funding and the amount of money coming in wouldn't depend on successful commercialization.

Re:more is coming (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 10 months ago | (#45972709)

What did you think would happen if you hit the American post-secondary education system with massive, across the board budget cuts?

American colleges used to put out their research for (effectively) free to the public and corporations benefited HUGELY. Now its time to pay the piper and hes looking to collect interest.

Boston U is Private.

Re:more is coming (2)

Uberbah (647458) | about 10 months ago | (#45972797)

Boston U is Private.

Distinction without much of a difference. Private schools get federal grant money, and it's not uncommon for public universities to cost more than private ones. Not because of the invisible hand, but because of the 30 year bipartisan war on the public sector.

Re:more is coming (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973075)

If universities are so hurt by budget cuts, maybe they should consider scaling back some of their sports programs. Have you seen the size of some of the football stadiums and training facilities these schools have? I thought universities were for education.

Re:more is coming (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 10 months ago | (#45973449)

Have you any idea how much revenue football programs bring in to colleges, both directly through ticket and television rights sales, and indirectly as part of begging alumni for funds?

Re:more is coming (2)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 9 months ago | (#45974523)

Isn't it better if the Evil Big Corporations who use the results of research pay for the research via patent licenses than the tax payer pays?

Suppose I'm a government bureaucrat. I need to decide who gets grants and who does not. Now with most academic fields it's actually non trivial to decide if a particular piece of research is actually worth anything. So I end up doing things like handing out cash to my alma mater, my favourite area, or who pays me off. This system doesn't really work very well because it depends on the government bureaucrat being some sort of philosopher king. Or you can hand out equal amounts of money to all the universities. In which case the good ones have no incentive to stay good - they get the same money as the bad ones regardless.

Now under the patent system academics invent things - and this particular invention is pretty damn non obvious. They patent them. The ones that are doing something useful get cash in terms of patent licenses. The ones that don't, don't. There's no discretion on the part of bureaucrats. In fact inside the university there's no discretion needed to decide which research is useful and which is not - the revenues from patents tell all.

It reminds me of a wonderful story I read about a very early laptop design. It run off NiCd rechargeable AA cells and trickle charged them when plugged in. In the UK where it was invented it sold with a warning label saying "Rechargeable batteries only, laptop will overheat if non rechargeable batteries are used". Trying to trickle charge a non rechargeable battery will make it overheat and potentially burn the user. When they decided to market in the US they were advised that if you burn your users they will sue you, regardless of warning label. So they added a thermistor and turned off the trickle charge if the batteries overheated. Now one way of looking at this is that the scumbag personal injury lawyers are actually carrying information. Even the threat of scumbag personal injury lawyers carries information. And so it is with the patent system. Most people will settle out of court if they're infringing a patent. Thus people can use whatever technology they want. The legal system takes care of making sure the inventor gets paid - either he keeps the patent himself and gets royalties, or he signs it over to his employer and they get them. Or, potentially he or his employer could sell the patents to a patent troll company - i.e. you can choose cash up front or a stream of royalties.

People complain about lawyers, patents and patent trolls but all of them are playing a useful role in a system which automagically channels money to research which is useful without needing any sort of central authority making the decisions.

Re:more is coming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972191)

You're a troll. And a fag. And a bitch. And a fucktard. And an ass. And an asshole. And a turd.

Re:more is coming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972277)

You're a troll.

Sure is as sure does

And a fag.

No argument there

And a bitch.

Aaaand how!!

And a fucktard.

Fucktardiest of them all

And an ass.

indubitably

And an asshole.

ass AND asshole, and not even redundantly so

And a turd.

THIS TIME YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!!

Re:more is coming (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 10 months ago | (#45972699)

Time to rethink any plans to endow such universities with any kind of scholarships or research partnerships.

Re:more is coming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972781)

yeah, because they obviously fail. I mean, it's horrible that they wasted all this money on a product that has fucking changed the energy consumption of the free world. Yes, apple, et al, realized the patent was valid and chose not to contest it. Therefore, they did most likely create something new, non-obvious and very useful. Samsung is, unsurprisingly, violating their patent, and since they're not getting much traction from samsung, they're suing the folks who are importing samsung produced LEDs without a license. Completely reasonable.

Re:more is coming (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 10 months ago | (#45973103)

If researchers discover a cool new technology, I see no issues with them licensing it out, and using the profits to do more research. In this case, you have a clear benefit to society, and it's not patent trolling.

Not that the education system doesn't have issues, but I don't see the issue in this case.

I have zero problems with BU's patents (5, Insightful)

Yi Ding (635572) | about 10 months ago | (#45972125)

This is the way the patent system is supposed to work. The university creates a useful product based on a real technology advance, patents the idea, and then when it becomes ubiquitous the university is able to calculate the worth of the technology and gets large firms to license appropriately. This is completely different from software patents where it's mostly "I did it first, haha."

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (4, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | about 10 months ago | (#45972213)

Fine then... If this is the way it is supposed to work then there is no further reason to subsidize the university with tax dollars since they have the ability to develop these valuable patent portfolios. The knife should work both ways. Either they fund research using their patent portfolio or tax dollars but not both.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972345)

They already have. Government budget cuts after the economy collapsed ~3 years ago have already hit university subsidies. Wanna see more patent lawsuits? Cut the government subsidies some more. Go ahead. See what happens.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972407)

Unfortunately, we seem to be culturally fine with (or even in favor of) going the patent portfolio route, rather than using tax dollars for funding research.

Am I the only one who thinks we will have lost something when everything under the "intellectual property" umbrella is monotized, nothing ever enters the public domain again, and all research decisions are based on commercial viability? How much longer before "open source" software and content become illegal because they present unfair price competition to the development of commercial alternatives?

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972715)

There is no logical reason it has to be an either/or proposition ...

Re: I have zero problems with BU's patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972827)

You may be right if the most important function of universities are to invent new technologies, for in that case they are privatising the fruit of the government money instead of letting the taxpayers take it.
However, the primary purpose of the universities are education of talented youths so that they could contribute more to the society in their future. What's wrong if they could fund themselves for that? More education with less government money sounds not that bad to me...

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972905)

Either they fund research using their patent portfolio or tax dollars but not both.

Because...? That's like saying either your job or your wife's job should fund your family's expenses, but not both.

There are no universities left, public or private, whose research programs are adequately funded by tax dollars, and so the money they receive must be supplemented by other means. That includes industry-sponsored research, donations, investment returns on endowment, and licensing revenue. What reason do you have to prohibit patent licensing?

University R&D creates significant advances in science and technology, but universities have no way of commercializing it. Are you suggesting that they simply give it away and allow it to be locked up by big business? Or should the business entity that wants to commercialize it have to pay a fair price for the invention while guaranteeing the university some degree of influence on that commercializer, thus generating additional research funding and preventing the company from simply sitting on the technology? The inventions that get licensed are ones requiring huge resources to commercialize that are realistically only achievable by the established big players. The only benefit to prohibiting the recouping of expenses by universities would go to those massive corporate entities who have the means to invest the further money in commercialization. There's no public benefit to that. It just becomes a multi-million dollar handout to Novartis or GE or Samsung.

Are you suggesting that universities should simply be the free, outsourced R&D for corporate giants? Inventions with public funding come with obligations to the government, and that includes a review process to ensure that public funding is not inappropriately commingled in these projects. Part of that responsibility is ensuring that universities and federal sponsors get a fair return on their money, because the research dollars given out by federal sponsors aren't even fully tax-funded. Unless you're prepared to make up the difference with massive tax increases to both federal research sponsor programs and to public university general research programs so that there's no need for them to seek out supplemental funding to meet their expenses, or you're prepared to gut university research programs, then you're barking up the wrong tree entirely.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

penix1 (722987) | about 10 months ago | (#45972985)

Who said I am prohibiting patent licensing? I am prohibiting the use of tax dollars AND patent licensing for the same research. Why should the tax payer fund something they are going to privatize?

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973705)

Why should the tax payer fund something they are going to privatize?

Well for one, no publicly funded research is being privatized, and second, the decision to couple the public research with a patent is a cost recovery decision when the tax payer isn't bearing the full cost of the research. If the public wants to pay for universities to release everything for free (which ultimately just ensures that private enterprise is the only one who benefits), then fine, but they'll have to cough up a lot more research money.

Universities don't patent inventions unless they require additional investment to commercialize and there's a willing licensee to cover those costs. They do this not for profit (any money they make just goes back into research, which reduces what Mr. Taxpayer has to pay), but to ensure a fair return on inventions with market impact. Doing free R&D that can only be used by one or two corporations in the relevant industry is not a better solution, especially when university patents are only the first half and not patenting it would effectively lock the university out of further research on its own inventions.

Any patent where any federal funding is involved is first reviewed by the federal sponsor, and if even if they declare that they have no stake in it, the US government gets automatic rights to use the invention anyway, and it also has the power to override patent licenses issued to a private actor if they fail to make diligent efforts toward commercialization. The university will also almost always gain access to the licensee's patents and maintain a right to continue its own work with the invention, both of which ultimately widen the scope of research available to academic scientists.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

gtall (79522) | about 9 months ago | (#45975219)

What you are missing is the research the scientists do at a university keeps the university's course work up to date and cutting edge. That translates into better prepared students. If universities are not leading research, the government and companies cannot (in the former) and will not (in the latter) do anything to keep the universities current. Hell, right now companies cannot even be arsed to train anyone, they want a ready-made widget masquerading as a person they can immediate fit into their profit structure and whack whenever that profit structure moves in a different direction.

It isn't that I do not feel taxpayer funded research doesn't require taxpayer funded payback, but I do think a more rigorous accounting of the benefits and costs is eluding this conversation to date.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972247)

You do realize we're talking about about blue LEDs here right? This is not at all "different from software patents where it's mostly "I did it first, haha." They took two things and combined them....it was only a matter of time before someone did it.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972381)

Except that they waited 16 years to protect their patent...

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | about 10 months ago | (#45972957)

They're not supposed to wait until it becomes ubiquitous - if it does, then it seems to me like it fails the obviousness test for the patent if they were able to independently derive it. Licensing should be arranged before, or as soon as possible after, the products come to market.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

CaptQuark (2706165) | about 10 months ago | (#45973615)

There are other companies that did the same thing. Look at the patent on the LZW compression technique in the .GIF format. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_Interchange_Format [wikipedia.org]

Unisys waited almost 10 years until .GIF files were the ubiquitous picture format on the web, THEN they started suing for patent infringement. The led to the .PNG file format being developed, but everyone was still mad at Unisys for waiting so long.

~~

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (5, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about 10 months ago | (#45973011)

In this case, I have no problem with the patent being issued. The problem I have is with who gets sued.

I'll bet Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft did NOT order Blue LEDs using BU's patent. They ordered blue LEDs and had no idea what tech was used to manufacture them. The manufacturer that actually used BU's tech to make the LEDs is the legitimate target of a suit.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (2)

purpledinoz (573045) | about 10 months ago | (#45973809)

Nor should they care how it's made. Can you imagine, for every single resister, capacitor, LED, chip, you have to check how it's made and ensure they have the proper licenses or patents? That would be ridiculous.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

sjames (1099) | about 10 months ago | (#45973939)

Exactly.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (-1, Troll)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45973825)

In this case, I have no problem with the patent being issued.

Wrong. You do not have a problem with who gets sued. You have a problem with the patent being used.

More specifically: You have a problem with the fact that patents allow the idea monopolist to prevent use of the patented technology, not just sale or manufacture of the patented process or idea itself -- How else would patents possibly work, smart guy?

More generally: You have a patent problem.

Most tellingly, you also have a logic problem. It's common for the irrational to make ridiculous statements such as yours. You have zero evidence that patents or copyrights are beneficial whatsoever, even ignoring the fashion and automotive industries which sell primarily on design and are innovative in design and yet are allowed no design patents or copyrights -- However, you still entertain the idea that it's not completely moronic to run the world's economy of ideas and scientific progress based on untested and unproven hypotheses that copyright and patents are beneficial.

If you do not have a problem with all patents, then you are not rational. You are not a scientist. You shouldn't even call yourself an engineer, or human for that matter. You owe everything you have to your only advantage over the other apes: A better system for the free sharing of ideas and information... And you "have no problem with the patent"... that's just ridiculous. You have no problem with placing a restriction on human nature? You have no problem with creating a police state for innovation?

You have no rational basis for your retarding beliefs. You need to re-evaluate your existence, human.

Re:I have zero problems with BU's patents (1)

sjames (1099) | about 10 months ago | (#45973931)

If you'd like to get a tractor and pull that stick out of your butt, I might reply.

LOLzz!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972129)

Come on Slashfags, tell us all about how OUYA is better than everything else. [techcrunch.com]
 
Massive fail... RIGHT UP THE ASS!!!!

Re:LOLzz!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972185)

Turns out that... you're a dick.

The endowment (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 10 months ago | (#45972217)

must have been going a little soft. Had to stuff the mattress I suppose.

I think I'm missing something... (1)

ilsaloving (1534307) | about 10 months ago | (#45972223)

I thought that if you don't assert your patent from day one, then you can't cry foul later on. How long have they been sitting on this thing, only to turn around and start suing everyone after the process became wide spread.

While BU may be on better ground, and may put the money to better use than some scum sucking patent troll, it still strikes me as trollish behaviour.

Re:I think I'm missing something... (1)

richlv (778496) | about 10 months ago | (#45972301)

i believe that works like this with trademarks, unfortunately not with patents.

Re:I think I'm missing something... (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 10 months ago | (#45972331)

that is the fucked up patent system for you. It is trademarks that you have to protect from day one otherwise you can't cry foul later. It is definitely horribly trollish behaviour from BU and is yet another perfect example of the patent system needing reform. Needs to be a far tighter timeframe in which a patent owner must make known their intention to assert patent infringement otherwise they should lose the right to make such a claim.

Re:I think I'm missing something... (2)

russotto (537200) | about 10 months ago | (#45972411)

It appears this might be all about a Samsung lawsuit they've been involved in for some time. The other companies don't make the allegedly infringing devices, but they do import them, so BU decided to put some pressure on Samsung by suing the customers.

Re:I think I'm missing something... (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 10 months ago | (#45972505)

I thought that if you don't assert your patent from day one, then you can't cry foul later on. How long have they been sitting on this thing, only to turn around and start suing everyone after the process became wide spread.

That is mostly true. You aren't allowed to wait to tell someone that they infringe your patent just to get more damages. If you do (and you get caught), then you can only get money for the time up until you figured out that they were infringing.

Having said that, I don't know the details of this case, so I don't know how that rule might apply.

BU, the Safety School (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972233)

down on the banks of the River Charles.

Universities and the patent game (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972347)

I guess I'm a bit old fashioned, but I always had concieved of universities as being places where the pursuit of learning and new knowledge were ends unto themselves. Patents and "monitizing" of the university system seem to me to corrupt the purity of knowledge and education for their own sakes, replacing those abstract goals with concerns like "how much money will that research be worth" and "will teaching those classes result in higher wages for our graduates (and hence more and larger donations)". Research with intent to commercialize is more properly conducted by commercial research labs. Instead we seem to have decided to shut down the big ones and offload that work to the university system, with a complete lack of concern or interest in the cultural consequences for higher education.

I think we need to add another four years on to our high school education programs, or make some other arrangements so that universities can return to their role of being pure research and learning institutions whose deliberate and specific intent is to foster research and learning without concern for whether it can be monitized. We should be adjusting our "standard" or "high school degree" education standards so that the majority of employment opportunities available in the work force can be successfully handled by those graduates. "Higher" education should not, by definition, be a general requirement for virtually all worthwhile employment in this country.

Undoubtely this view is somewhat impractical, and it is a fair point that universities cost money to run and maintain, but the support of the altruistic pursuit of knowledge is one goal for which I will cheerfully, even eagerly, pay more taxes. I have a deeply held conviction that some things are more important than money, and one of the measures of merit by which civilizations shoudl be judged is how they support those pursuits - if we can't look at anything as fundamental as learning about the world around us without wondering how we can "monitize" what we learn, we are diminished as a civilization.

Boston University is most likely on fairly solid grounds with this patent (unlike, say, most software patents) and within their legal rights to act in this fashion, but I view it as a sad commentary on our society that things have reached the point where a university either needs to or wants to take advantage of a mechanism like patents, which fundamentally restrict the application of knowledge in the first place.

more tech / trades schools / apprenticeship (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 10 months ago | (#45972621)

put more into tech / trades schools / apprenticeship to take the load off universities.

Extend high school like costs to students to community college level with 1/2 year tech / trades like plans and make so that universities MUST TAKE ALL community college credits and if they really want you to retake classes / take our class that is just about the same then it must be free of change.

I think Universitys are somewhat lowering standards due to the student loan system and other stuff.

Also Universitys are trying to take the place of old trades schools / apprenticeship ideas and giving people lots of skill gaps as 1 the older apprenticeship system did not give people years of theory with limited hands on up front. Also the University system is not setup to have working pros be teachers or is it really setup to tech hands on skills (in some Fields).

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972433)

I'm disappointed in /.
No one posted the most fitting and hysterical funny quote

Hamid: What's that?
John Rambo: It's blue light.
Hamid: What does it do?
John Rambo: It turns blue.

Still laughing my ass off every time.

So BU is now a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972579)

Why did BU go after companies that don't actually manufacture blue leds for anything?
These companies have OEMs manufacture devices that USE blue leds, but they don't manufacture them, therefor going after these companies that way is actually patent trolling...

They need to go after whomever provided Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc... with the blue leds, unless of course that manufacturer has a license to make them.

Either way, I welcome BU to it's new Patent Troll level.

How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (3, Insightful)

saccade.com (771661) | about 10 months ago | (#45972671)

I'm puzzled. The patent (at least the one cited in the article) details a very specific method for creating the crystals in LEDs. I can see BU going after various LED manufacturers (Cree, Philips, Panasonic, etc.). But Apple? Microsoft? Those companies re-sell those components, they don't manufacture them.

Re:How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972993)

I'm puzzled. The patent (at least the one cited in the article) details a very specific method for creating the crystals in LEDs. I can see BU going after various LED manufacturers (Cree, Philips, Panasonic, etc.). But Apple? Microsoft? Those companies re-sell those components, they don't manufacture them.

The LEDs were most likely manufactured in China by a company that did not license the technology. They were then incorporated into other products in China. Those products were then imported to the US.

Under that particular set of circumstances, the company that imports the product is responsible for the patent infringement.

Re:How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (1)

lobotomy (26260) | about 10 months ago | (#45973079)

Exactly what I was thinking.Could they come after me if I buy a bag of blue LEDs and make things with them?

Re:How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (2)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 10 months ago | (#45973539)

IIUC, yes.

Re:How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (1)

Misagon (1135) | about 10 months ago | (#45973699)

Blue LEDs contain so much energy that they hurt the eyes .. and they look really tacky.
Would it not be right that it is the companies that put the blue LEDs into products that should be punished for doing so? ;)

Re:How can they sue companies who don't make LEDs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973847)

Patents not only protect manufactoring, but also the inclusion in other products and even the use of a product.
In principle they could sue you for looking at the specific blue LED.

Legality (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972685)

My taxes contributed to the funding that made the research resulting in these patents possible. Where is my cut? Are class action suits by "We the people" (the Fed of course) next to garner some returns on those investments?

I'm with the patent holders on this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45972763)

Nothing I hate more in all of tech than ultra bright blue LED lights.

If it means selling out for just one years reprieve on gear with blue LEDs or just one company decides to pick a different color then Boston universities submarine patent scheme is to be celebrated.

Re:I'm with the patent holders on this one (1)

anagama (611277) | about 10 months ago | (#45973177)

Total agreement. Blue LEDs suck with their retina piercing intensity. Why does everything designed to be in a dark room have fricken blue LEDs? Why not orange or red?

Publicly funded research should be public domain (3)

jessetaylor84 (3497397) | about 10 months ago | (#45972947)

Completely ridiculous to see taxpayer-funded research being patented. If public funds are being spent on research (as they are at BU, even though it's a "private" school), then the results of this research should be released into the public domain.

I'm glad CSRG at Berkley wasn't like this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973199)

and the world was given Net/1 & Net/2 gratis.

Bullsh*t (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973389)

1. I have a PhD in GaN LEDs, and work at an LED company
2. I've worked with "the guy" who won that $1.3M prize for inventing the GaN LED
3. I've worked on large, multi institutions government funded GaN-based projects that Moustakas was also involved on, I am very framiliar with the last 2.5 decades of his research in particular
4. I am very familiar with both the devices and the IP of the field in genearl since I have a few of these kinds of patents

This lawsuit makes no sense. First of all many if not most of the companies don't manufacture any GaN based LEDs. Second of all, that patent covers a technique that no one uses in commercial GaN LEDs. Literally no one. That patent very specifically covers GaN crystal growth by MBE (molecular beam epitaxy). Every single GaN LED company (Nichia, Cree, Soraa, etc.) uses MOCVD (Metal organic chemical vapor deposition) techniques. The claims are of course quite cryptic and difficult to determine their entire implication, but from what I can one of the mains things he is claiming to patent is any GaN structure grown on a foreign substrate with a low temperature poly-crystalline layer. Nearly all commercial LEDs are grown on sapphire of SiC with the use of some kind of low temperature poly-crystalline buffer layer. However there is lots of prior art on this (notice the dates!)

http://jjap.jsap.jp/link?JJAP/30/L1705/

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/48/5/10.1063/1.96549

He also tries to discuss the potential dopant atoms, none of the ones that are mentioned are currently used. Of course I'm not sure exactly which claim their lawsuits are hinging on, but all of the meaningful claims in there are covered by prior art (journal publications) and/or better, old, stronger patents.

tl;dr this patent is bullshit, it covers things that have prior art, or aren't useful

Re:Bullsh*t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973937)

one of the mains things he is claiming to patent is any GaN structure grown on a foreign substrate with a low temperature poly-crystalline layer. Nearly all commercial LEDs are grown on sapphire of SiC with the use of some kind of low temperature poly-crystalline buffer layer.

The patent talks about MBE and dopants and such, but the claims don't necessarily involve that. Just look at the first invention claimed:

A semiconductor device comprising:
a substrate, said substrate consisting of a material selected from the group consisting of(100) Silicon, (111) silicon, (0001) sapphire, (11-20) sapphire, (1-102) sapphire, (111) gallium aresenide, (100) gallium aresenide, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide and silicon carbide;
a non-single crystalline buffer layer having a thickness of about 30 to about 500 , comprising a first material grown on said substrate, the first material consisting essentially of gallium nitride; and
a first growth layer grown on the buffer layer, the first growth layer comprising gallium nitride and a first dopant material.

That's it.
And as you say, that's basically how-to grow a modern LED on sapphire. (Whether you could skirt it by growing undoped GaN on top of your buffer....)

The fact that companies are actually settling might suggest there is some validity to the patent.
The LED industry is completely embroiled in patent disputes and doesn't seem to mind. The companies settling [xconomy.com] include AUO, LG, Samsung, Seoul Opto, and Toshiba--big names in Japanese and Korean LED manufacturing who all certainly know the lay of the land.
Not settling includes EpiStar (major Taiwanese manufacturer).

Re:Bullsh*t (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 9 months ago | (#45974767)

The fact that companies are actually settling might suggest there is some validity to the patent.

The whole point of patent trolling is to make settling cheaper than fighting a prolonged legal battle. Even if the companies win in court, they do so by spending more money than they would by just settling.

Re:Bullsh*t (1)

eladts (1712916) | about 9 months ago | (#45975181)

Fighting a patent troll in court is much like standing up to a bully. It might hurt you in the short term, but in the long term others will leave you alone because they know you will stand your ground.

Intellectual Property sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45973411)

The very notion of intellectual property completely and totally flawed. Just one more case to prove it.
I dare you to try to prove to me that there is a need for the notion of intellectual property. Protip: you can't.

Patents (1)

peppepz (1311345) | about 10 months ago | (#45974003)

A university that teaches you things that you can't learn.

Reality can be more funny than Soviet Russia jokes.

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