Nigerian company seeks US$20M OLPC 'damages'

Lagos Analysis Corporation has gained an injunction that could halt the distribution of educational laptops to children in the country, to the bemusement of the One Laptop per Child body.

Nigerian company Lancor is seeking US$20 million from the One Laptop per Child charity, alleging patent infringement.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), an organization that aims to provide affordable laptops to aid education in developing countries, was accused of patent infringement by Lagos Analysis Corporation (Lancor) in August.

Documents published on open-source legal site Groklaw indicate that solicitors acting on behalf of Lancor demanded US$20 million in damages from OLPC on August 6, 2007, claiming that patents registered by Lancor for its Konyin Multilingual Keyboard in Nigeria and the United States had been infringed, and the terms of an end-user license agreement (EULA) broken. Lancor claims that OLPC chair Nicholas Negroponte entered into the EULA, but has not provided any evidence in court to support that claim.

A Lancor solicitor's letter addressed to the chief executive officer of OLPC stated: "We are informed by our Clients and we believe [the] same to be true that following your purchase of their products on or about August 06, 2006, you took information, albeit surreptitiously, and applied their work product for your use and benefit without permission thereby violating the end-user license agreement and infringing on their intellectual property rights...In consequence of your breach/continuous infringement of our Clients' [sic]rights we have our Clients [sic]instruction to demand and we hereby demand payment in damages in the sum of US$20 million."

However, OLPC lawyers responded with a letter on August 31, 2007 outlining a series of queries, and asserted that OLPC had not been provided with enough information to evaluate the patent-infringement claims.

"In your letter you allege that OLPC has infringed certain intellectual property rights of your client Lagos Analysis Corporation ('Lancor')," wrote OLPC lawyers in response. "Your letter lacks any detail as to the purported intellectual property rights that have allegedly been infringed and therefore we have no means of evaluating your claims."

The lawyers also queried that OLPC had entered into a end-user license agreement with Lancor, and requested a copy of the "executed" end-user license.

Lancor lawyers did not respond, Groklaw reports, instead seeking and gaining an injunction from the Federal High Court in Lagos. The injunction will prevent sales or distribution of any keyboard similar to Lancor's Konyin Multilingual Keyboard in Nigeria, pending a court hearing to determine whether patents have been infringed.

According to a Lancor affadavit supporting the injunction, the plaintiffs Ade Oyegbola and Walter Oluwole invented and patented the Konyin Multilingual Keyboard with extra keys, and software drivers. It is these patents that Lancor alleges have been infringed by OLPC.

"The plaintiffs/applicants jointly through sweat and equity toll [sic] for over seven years to develop a new physical keyboard with 4 (four) shift keys and incorporated a new approach to keyboard layouts that allows for doubling [sic] the number of functions per keyboard on direct access typing [sic]," said the Lancor affidavit.