Boston University wants a ban on the sale of a wide variety of Apple products and the company’s profits from the last few years — all because of a patent filed for in 1995.

iPhone 5 iOS 7 WWDC Apple screenshot phone iOS

How do college students feel about this one? The powers that be at Boston University want a federal court to ban the sale of a wide range of Apple products — including the iPhone 5, the iPad and the MacBook Air — because they allegedly infringe a patent issued to one of its professors in 1997.

In a complaint filed this week in the Massachusetts federal court, the trustees of BU say the Apple products contain a “gallium nitride thin film semiconductor device” that is still under patent protection. Professor Theodore Moustakas applied for the patent in 1995, which means it is set to expire in 2015. Here’s an image from the patent, which describes the use of nitrogen to prepare a type of film that is “a potential source of inexpensive and compact solid-state blue lasers:”

Patent screenshot

Boston University is not only seeking an injunction banning the sale of a wide range of Apple products, but is also asking for an accounting of Apple’s profits — meaning the school wants Apple to hand over its earnings from the last few years. If that happens, lucky BU students can expect free tuition and gold-plated water fountains (which would presumably make up for the absence of new Apple gear).

More realistically, Apple will attack the patent or else settle quietly. The episode is likely to raise the question, yet again, of how well the patent system, and the 20 year monopolies it awards, are serving America’s digital economy. In this case, some may wonder why it took BU so long to commence their gold-mining expedition. You can read the complaint for yourself here:

BU v Apple

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  1. I pray that BU prevail. Apple, the biggest tech kleptomaniacs and most litigious. Apple, you had it coming.

    1. Do you get paid by Samsung, or are you just naturally mentally dishonest?

      1. …and do you get paid by Apple, or are you just incredibly obtuse?.

        1. Stop fooling yourself and come back to reality.

          1. Yes_samsung_Paid_Me BC2009 Wednesday, July 3, 2013

            Apple started out by stealing ideas. Just like they store this from BU.

    2. You know, Apple gets sued all the time by patent trolls: people who claim ownership of an idea but don’t actually do anything to develop product that uses the idea.

      Apple, on the other hand, develops ideas, patents them, turns them into successful products that it actively markets, and then sues a few companies who copy those ideas.

      There is a vast difference between these things.

      1. Tilghman Lësher Thor Wednesday, July 3, 2013

        Apple is neither completely innocent of patent trolling, nor a complete evil troll. As with many other companies, they are somewhere in the middle, sometimes defending themselves from poorly written patents and at other times prosecuting poorly awarded patents.

        1. @Lësher. Amen to that.

        2. Ditto that, Lësher.

          1. Agreed, The reap what they sow. Hopefully as the article points out this might help to make some changes in the patent system.

      2. Apple at one time actually bragged about how they stole, I mean appropriated ideas and then marketed them. Not unlike how MS “innovates.”

        1. Steve Jobs’ comments about “stealing great ideas” from was the 1990s before any ideas were really patented.

          Apple originally invented all sorts of novel things in the 80s, many of which built upon the original ideas of others. But Apple enriched Xerox and other companies it purportedly “stole” from, and nobody had patents on any of the software.

          Microsoft purely stole Apple’s Macintosh, stole QuickTime code, and screwed over its former partner after Apple helped MS get into the software apps business on the Mac with Office. That’s not really the same thing. Apple used over copyright, not patents, because that’s all it had.

          Google similarly stole from Apple, but Google expressly stole Apple’s patented ideas. Samsung did the same.

          Apple pays licensing feels to Nokia, MPEG, Microsoft and lots of other companies. But Google, Motorola, Samsung and the sort are purely stealing other’s work and then throwing up roadblocks to prevent paying licensing fees or avoid having to develop their own ideas.

          That’s not the same as what Steve Jobs mean when he said he “steals” ideas like Picasso. Picasso didn’t steal other artist’s work and put his name on it. Google, Samsung et all do.

          1. “Steve Jobs’ comments about “stealing great ideas” from was the 1990s before any ideas were really patented.”

            Really? Nobody had any ideas worth getting a real patent for pre-1990?

            Do you assume that the universe didn’t exist before you were born?

            You should really do a little reading on inventions and patents. Of course, at one time you couldn’t patent business methods or software. Back in the early 80s you could only copyright software. I don’t know when that changed, but it did. And the second it did, there was a massive flood of new patent requests and grants.

            And yes, Apple has copied many other peoples designs over the years.
            Did you know they just got sued by the guys that run the Swiss Rail for stealing their well know and trademarked logo?

            Don’t make the mistake of thinking Apple (or any other large company) doesn’t copy or otherwise obtain ‘inspiration’ from others.

            1. @Someone_Else: Apple were not “sued by the guys that run the Swiss Rail for stealing their well know and trademarked logo”. There was no lawsuit, no theft, and it was not about a logo. The brief dispute was about reusing a famous station clock design, that you can also buy on a watch from Mondaine (I own one). After an uneventful negotiation, Apple paid about $20M for a license. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2231652/Apple-paid-13million-Swiss-national-rail-operator-using-iconic-clock-design-permission.html

          2. How are Google, Motorola, Samsung stealing other’s works? I am assuming you are talking about the iphone, ipad and iOS which are laregely derivative works based on prior art.

      3. Apple’s next significant idea will be its first. Apple has made a business model out of improving other people’s ideas, refining them, putting them into pretty packages and marketing them to the flock of bipedal sheep that constitutes their base.

        1. it must be nice to live in your pretty place. so simple.

      4. Name something apple developed.

        Go ahead.

    3. GFYantiapplezealots Sa'eed Wednesday, July 3, 2013

      Wow you’re pathetic. Read more than the paid by Samsung written headlines loser.

    4. Sa’eed must work for MS or Google

      1. @yuuup. I swear, I had a chuckle. No, I do not work for Google or Microsoft. On the contrary, I was a die hard Apple products evangelist; I was in line midnight for the launching of the candy colored iMacs (oops, gave away my age).

        Alas, no more. My aversion to Apple has do with the shell it has become; what happened to the maverick Apple?, what happened to the heyday of R&D, not litigate & litigate?.

        Must admit, I am really glad for Google coming in to disrupt Apple/Jobs’ nefarious plans of dominating mobile computing. Imagine where we will all be with only Apple products and iOS as the only game in town. I just shudder.

        1. What happened to the maverick Apple? It’s coming in the fall. OS X Mavericks.

          1. @John. Touché. You got me there – can’t to that.

        2. you’re insane. how many industries must apple disrupt before its enough to prove iinnovation to you?

    5. Because no one other than Apple ever files patent lawsuits and no one else borrows or adopts others look and feel. Oh, Apple never invents anything and everyone knows that Google invented everything…

      Oh, seriously, get over yourself!

    6. Did you know that BU already had to sue Samsung for EXACTLY THE SAME THING?

      Sounds like you didn’t.

      BU is hauling this patent out and suing basically everyone. Try to keep your hate in your pants.

  2. Hey Apple, you reap what you sow

    1. If it were true that you reap what you sow, then Samsung would be out of business already. You deride Apple which is one of the few companies left with any integrity.

      1. Apple? with Integrity? Oh, My Dear God!!! you really are a devoted fan of Apple.

    2. So in the world of the tiny minded, Apple is the only company that ever sued anyone ever, is that it?

  3. i would say just another pc dishonest rant.

  4. Hello !
    This is quite heart rending news. Apple could not do that. :( I really like iphone and waiting for its new inventions. Best of luck to Apple.
    Thanks for informing us.

  5. Good luck with that.

  6. Maybe Apple should just buy BU and send whoever went on this gold digging expedition to the unemployment line?

  7. Typical of the abuse of the patent system that BU is suing the end user of a device that almost certainly in every single piece of electronics sold today. You might as well sue Ford when disputing a patent regarding a method of curing rubber. But Apple has the deepest pockets and has headquarters in the US. Let’s see the BU sue Pegatron or Foxxconn.

  8. This isn’t a troll though. Its a real scientist, who invented a real process, and who patented his idea because he wasn’t a 10 billion dollar company that was going to make billions of blue lasers, and he didn’t want a 10 billion dollar company taking his idea, making 12 billion off it, and not ever seeing a penny himself.

    The Apples and Samsungs of the world, on the other hand, are patenting things like “A phone with a touch screen” or “round green icons”, and expecting the same protections to apply. And along the way they’re clogging up the patent system with so much crap that it can’t hope to handle it, leading to a system where everything is granted, and these problems have to be settled in long expensive court proceeding, which just happen to keep the little guys from having any chance to compete at all.

    1. No, he is a troll with a capital ‘T'; never had any intention of building a product; never actually built a product… and is actually suing the company who buys the product from someone else. If it is a valid patent, if there was actual infringement of the patent, then it is Sharp, Samsung and LG (who build the displays and sell them) who are the actual perpetrators, not Apple. BU may as well sue everyone who owns an LCD TV… They are targeting deep pockets like any other, useless, bottom dwelling, lazy patent troll; walks like a duck…

      1. No, not at all. The professor is a researcher — he didn’t build a “product” — he actually invented something, did the science, and created it. It wasn’t a business method, or software patent, or part of a roll-up of patents with the sole intention of making money off of licensing.

        There are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about suits like this — but the notion that scientist and research institutions can only benefit when they directly commercialize something is crazy. Cases like this are one of the few places where protections *may* make sense — if research instituions can’t license their discoveries (i.e., it’s permissible for them to just be taken without compensation), how do they reap some benefit?

        I have no idea in this case if that is what happened — but it’s possible that this was a crucial invention. It’s no ta thing like what real patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures do — it doesn’t remotely walk, or talk like that duck.

    2. And who is footing the bill for the courtroom time and salaries? The tax payer, the little guy who pays a full share, not Apple which sends 70% of its profits overseas to avoid taxes.

    3. Who pays the courtroom time and salaries of the staff? Taxpayers, the majority of whom pay the most out of their smaller incomes, while Apple sends 70% of its profitis overseas untaxed.

  9. Apple themselves do not make devices using the technology of the patent. To whatever extent the patent applies, it’s used by manufacturers from whom Apple would purchase components, and it’s reasonable to ask what licenses those manufacturers have and what indemnification they provide to their customers. Jumping on the “Apple is bad” bandwagon is at best premature given what limited information is in this article.

    1. That depends on which semiconductor is being sited in the suit. If it’s the A5 processor chip, that is manufactured by Apple. Remember, Apple acquired a couple of chip manufacturers a while back to help them produce better mobile processors.

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