Apple, Amazon, Samsung, & More Settle Boston Univ. Patent Lawsuits
The technology industry’s biggest names have given in and settled patent lawsuits from Boston University, which has launched an enormous legal assault in the past two years to lock down licensing fees before a key patent expires.
The university announced the biggest chunk of settlements on Wednesday, noting that 25 of the companies being sued had agreed to a deal through San Francisco-based RPX, a “defensive” intellectual property firm (NASDAQ: RPXC) that is paying Boston University a licensing fee for the patents in question.
“About a dozen firms that aren’t RPX members remain in litigation with the university,” the school said.
No dollar figures were disclosed. Boston University also didn’t directly name the companies that had agreed to settle, but did say that “many popular consumer products incorporate the technology … including the iPhone 5, the iPad, and the Kindle Paperwhite,” Amazon’s newer-model e-reader.
A federal court filing, however, reveals that tech’s biggest names were among those who decided to end the lawsuit by paying for a license through RPX: Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Dell, HTC, and more.
It looks like other companies being sued by Boston University will probably follow along with the trend. In a separate court filing, the school notes that it’s in settlement discussions with smaller electronics component firms and larger companies like Kodak, “and expects to be finalizing some additional settlements this week and next.”
As we noted last summer in writing about the initial salvo of lawsuits, this is an unusual step for Boston University, a private school of about 30,000 students. Court records showed that the burst of patent lawsuits, which started in October 2012, was the largest amount of intellectual property litigation to come from the university in at least a decade.
The technology at the center of the lawsuits covers blue light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which are widely used in consumer electronics, particularly in the lighted screens that are part of flat-panel displays, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Boston University engineering professor Theodore Moustakas holds the patents at issue.
Boston University has acknowledged that the unprecedented explosion of lawsuits was directly tied to the fact that the main patent in the cases is scheduled to expire in November 2014. “The fact is there’s a timeframe in which you have exclusive benefits to a patent. We’re within that timeframe,” spokesman Colin Riley told The Daily Free Press, Boston University’s student newspaper.
Last year, shortly after news of the school’s lawsuits broke, Boston University named Moustakas its Innovator of the Year.