The University of Minnesota (UMN) recently filed a batch of patent infringement lawsuits against four of the world’s largest cell phone carriers.
UMN is claiming one of its professors, Georgios Giannakis, invented key technology behind the LTE protocol, a standard for high-speed wireless communication that is currently being used by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to connect mobile phones.
According to the university, Giannakis did work “that improves reliability and speed” on LTE networks. The lawsuits accuse Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint of violating U.S. Patent Numbers 7,251,768; RE45,230; 8,588,317; 8,7717,175; and 8,774,309. Each lawsuit points out that UMN reaps $40 million in patent licenses each year, and that “the University reinvests its royalty revenues in its mission of serving the people of the State of Minnesota.”
The lawsuit is relatively unusual among universities, and it has drawn some criticism. Some accuse universities like UMN of using their status as powerful “non-practicing entities” to engage in litigation strategies similar to those of patent trolls.
The UMN action and other recent university suits are taking place against the background of a heated argument over a record-setting patent win by Carnegie Mellon University. In 2012, CMU won a $1.17 billion verdict against Marvell Semiconductor, and that figure has grown to $1.54 billion. The case is now on appeal. Last month, the University of Minnesota and several other universities filed a brief (PDF) supporting Carnegie Mellon’s landmark win.
Eric Kaler, president of UMN, comments, “Every day, our faculty is developing life-changing inventions and cures for the common good. That is what a great research university does. We must vigorously protect our faculty, those discoveries, and the overall interests of our university.” The defendant companies haven’t publicly commented on the UMN suits.
Source: Ars Technica