The Big Patent Lawsuit Settlement Memo You’re Not Supposed to See

4/3/14Follow @curtwoodward

Boston University caused a stir last year with an explosion of patent-infringement lawsuits against the biggest names in electronics.

At issue was blue LED technology that the school said was being used in a huge range of gadgets without permission from its inventor, a Boston University engineering professor.

After several months of courtroom tussles, most of those major players settled the claims by licensing the patents through RPX Corp., a publicly traded patent litigation firm.

We reported all that at the time. But apparently, the lawyers in the case were a little too forthcoming for everyone’s tastes.

Boston University’s lawyers recently asked the federal court to delete from the public record a letter they filed in January, which informed the judge which 25 companies were part of the wide-ranging settlement. The court agreed to redact the names of the companies mentioned in the letter, including references to RPX (NASDAQ: RPXC).

Why attempt to rewrite history? As Boston University’s lawyer explained in a court filing, the letter “inadvertently contained confidential information.”

Luckily for you, we’ve still got the original copy, which I’ve embedded below along with the new, less-informative redacted version that removes all company names. As you can see in the original, the companies that settled Boston University’s lawsuit via licenses from RPX include Apple, Amazon, Acer, Canon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, and Sony.

The letter doesn’t discuss how much Boston University was paid for licensing its patents, or how much RPX collected from the tech companies who settled by obtaining licenses. It does lay out a second group of lesser-known electronics companies that were still involved in the lawsuit with Boston University. Those names have since been redacted by the federal court, too.

It’s interesting that this list of tech companies has been stricken from the public court record, even though Xconomy had previously published it. Once something’s been published online, it has a tendency to hang around for quite a while.

Here are the two versions of the patent settlement letter, which you can compare to see just what the lawyers in this case don’t want anyone to see anymore. First, the redacted version:

BU Patents Settle Letter Redact by Xconomy

 

And here’s the original:

BU Patent Settle RPX Letter Unredacted by Xconomy

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • jgoulden

    So Amazon makes a product with a blue LED?

    • Jason

      I’m guessing it’s related to their Kindle line of products.

  • http://www.smat.us/ Smattus

    That lawyer’s English teacher must be so embarrassed: “…so the parties can reorganized the case…” and that’s just one of the bits of fractured grammar.

  • Roger

    Surely they should be going after whoever manufactured the LED’s rather than whoever bought them from the manufactuer?

  • DecentDiscourse

    I don’t understand why the court would routinely agree to withhold this information. Can some lawyer please explain why this information was framed as “confidential” to the court? Would it have anything to do with not wanting to attract others looking for patent payouts?

  • Common

    The confidentiality is precisely to avoid attracting other plaintiffs. Large technology companies get multiple patent demand letters every single day. Tech is not like life science where everybody has a decent sense of what patents are out there and who knows them. Tech companies get submarine patents asserted against them practically every week.