Boston University Patent Lawsuit Targets the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air

Apple joins Samsung and Amazon in the school's legal crosshairs.

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An image from Theodore Moustakas's 1997 patent

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my alma mater, Boston University, in a article I’ve written about technology. But BU is all over Techmeme today: It’s suing Apple over a 1997 patent. The university says that display technologies used by the iPhone 5, iPad and MacBook Air, among other products, violate the patent. It’s seeking damages and an injunction which would ban sales of the products in question.

(Further full disclosure: Multiple family members other than myself also attended the university, and my parents worked there for a combined total of something like sixty years.)

Unlike certain pundits, I cheerfully admit that I don’t know enough about patents to have a well-informed opinion about every news story that involves them. BU’s suit does seem to involve a patent on something specific invented at the university. That sets it apart from the trolls which acquired bizarrely broad software patents they can use to shake down everyone in sight. But whether Professor Theodore Moustakas’s  patent on “highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” is a genuine landmark which deserves to stand up in court, I do not know. So I’m not rooting for either side.

I am willing to make one prediction, though: Whether it wins, loses or settles out of court, BU will take a public-relations hit as it sues Apple and asks the feds to force the company to pull some of the world’s most popular consumer-electronics devices off the market. (The school had already filed suits against Samsung and Amazon, among others, without attracting much attention.)

However the lawsuit turns out, BU can continue to brag that it helped make not just the iPhone but all phones possible. Alexander Graham Bell was a professor at the university when he invented the telephone in in 1876. You can, um, learn more about that connection in the Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoon below, which further reveals that Mr. Peabody deserves at least as much credit for the telephone as Bell did.

Come to think of it, everyone who grew up on Rocky and Bullwinkle knows that the brainy pooch played an essential role in any number of breakthroughs. I wonder why he’s never sued anyone?


'That sets it apart from thetrollswhich acquired bizarrely broad software patents they can use to shake down everyone in sight'

Infringers always cry patent enforced against them are overly broad.

“patent troll”

infringers and their paid puppets’ definition of ‘patent troll’:

    anyone who has the nerve to sue us for stealing their invention

The patent system now teeters on the brink of lawlessness. Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to stop or pay”. This is just dissembling by large invention thieves and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals and their puppets who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so. To them the only patents that are legitimate are their own -if they have any. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals ship more and more US jobs overseas.

It’s about property rights. They should not only be for the rich and powerful. Our founders: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and others felt so strongly about the rights of inventors that they included inventors rights to their creations and discoveries in the Constitution. They understood the trade off. Inventors are given a limited monopoly and in turn society gets the benefits of their inventions (telephone, computer, airplane, automobile, lighting, etc) into perpetuity and the jobs the commercialization of those inventions bring. For 200 years the patent system has not only fueled the US economy, but the world’s. If we weaken the patent system we force inventors underground like Stradivarius (anyone know how to make a Stradivarius violin?) and in turn weaken our economy and job creation. Worse yet, we destroy the American dream -the ability to prosper from our ingenuity for the benefit of our children and communities. To kill or weaken the patent system is to kill their futures. Show me a country with weak or ineffective property rights and I’ll show you a weak economy with high unemployment. If we cannot own the product of our minds or labors, what can we be said to truly own. Life and liberty are fundamentally tied to and in fact based on property rights. Our very lives are inseparably tied to our property.

Prior to the Supreme Court case eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the eBay decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back into the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all patentees, large and small.

Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

For the truth about trolls, please see



Come to think of it, everyone who grew up on Rocky and Bullwinkle knows that the brainy pooch played an essential role in any number of breakthroughs. I wonder why he’s never sued anyone?

Die Abnehm Lösung pdf


Should be 1876 for Bell's phone invention.