What Did Theodore Moustakas Actually ‘Invent’ and Why Does He Paint Boston University ‘Patent Troll’?
Summary: Why Boston University’s reputation is simply not worth what it used to be worth after Theodore Moustakas embarked on an ego trip
A few days ago we wrote about Boston University acting like a troll at the behest of Moustakas and his privatised, taxpayers-funded venture. Patents assigned to the university are used as tools of embargo, making one wonder if universities should just be banned from acquiring patents. Many patents of theirs end up getting passed to patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures, hence taxing the taxpayers who subsidised those patents in the first place. It’s outrageous.
The press in Boston, as biased as one can expect it to be, covered the news as follows:
Boston University is taking on the richest consumer electronics company on the planet, claiming Apple ripped off a computer engineering professor’s patented electronic semiconductor and stuffed it into the world’s most popular devices.
In a bombshell lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, the university alleges that a small electronic component patented by computer engineering professor Theodore D. Moustakas in 1997 is included in the iPhone 5, iPad, and MacBook Air.
The CBS-owned CNET, a booster of Apple much of the time (Apple is a client and the author, Lance Whitney, worked for Microsoft), criticised BU for it and so did Troll Tracker, where BU gets treated like a patent troll. But let’s look at what the claimed ‘invention’ actually is. The target of the lawsuit does not matter here (the Boston press focuses on Apple’s wealth as though it somehow affects the legitimacy of the case), but what is it that Moustakas actually claims ownership — not credit — of? Let’s examine. Here is the patent, assigned only to “Trustees of Boston University” under Moustakas. The patent is basically a sort of ‘recipe’ of what it takes to make a form of gallium nitride (GaN), which has been at the centre of a mysterious death in Singapore (the court ruled two days ago that there had been no apparent assassination). For those who don’t know gallium nitride, it is basically essential for laser diodes. Moustakas did not invent it or anything. Gertrude Neumark Rothschild from Columbia University also tried to claim credit for some light-emitting diodes, suing a lot of companies. All that Moustakas appears to have done is extended somewhat the application of gallium nitride. Did Moustakas need to pay so-called ‘royalties’ for others before him who laid the foundations (probably in academia) to make his work possible? No, not really. Moustakas is an opportunist and a troll. He wants to get almost $100 million by going after the richest corporation which uses gallium nitride (he could claim the same infringement by just about any other company). Since the patent is about to expire and Moustakas has not much of a career left he is just trying to squeeze some money out or someone and we oughtn’t defend him for it. Apple will hopefully defeat this troll in court. █