Light emitting and laser diodes are used in a large number of consumer electronics products from the new fangled Blu-ray drives to the humble CD-ROM drives. They are also used in mobile phones and hand held devices, and even in traffic lights. Companies have been making this stuff for years and have been reasonably clear that all intellectual property related issues have been ironed out. In other words they don’t expect someone to pop out and claim royalties.
So this has come as a shock to many companies when the news of a patent infringement lawsuit filed by a retired professor of Columbia University came through. Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, in her complaint which has been accepted by the US International Trade Commission says that a busload of companies have been illegally using her patents without paying her any royalty. All total 34 companies, including Sony, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Motorola, Sharp, Hitachi, Sanyo, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba have been named as violators.
ITC is responsible for safeguarding US industries against dumping of goods and takes action against unfair trade practices like patent, trademark and copyright violations. This means that if ITC finds merit in Rothschild’s case it can theoretically block the imports of mobile phones, cameras, camcorders etc to the US. We rather think that it won’t deprive the American masses of their daily dose, but they might impose a steep fine on all these entities.
This is not the first time the professor has tangled with Big Business. Earlier she had sued Philips and obtained an out of court settlement over this patent. This means that she has built up a pretty bulletproof case and is not to be taken lightly. The 34 respondents must have already got the message and are presumably brainstorming with their legal teams.