UW sues cellphone giants over undergrad's invention

Undergrad Ed Suominen developed a radio design that UW patented 10 years ago. Now the school claims Bluetooth violates the patent.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The University of Washington, along with the Washington Research Foundation, have brought suit against two cellphone giants, charging patent infringement on research that was conducted by a University of Washington undergraduate 10 years earlier, reports Seattle Times.

The Washington Research Foundation, which assists the University of Washington with commercializing its technological developments, filed patents 10 years ago for what is now called "Bluetooth technology." Bluetooth technology is used in wireless headsets, or as a means of exchanging data between mobile phones, PCs and other devices without using cables.

Then-student Ed Suominen developed a radio design before receiving a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1995. He gave the rights to the patents to the UW.

"That's what's unusual about it," said John Reagh, WRF's manager of business development and legal affairs. "We manage a number of patents for the university, and I can't think of another one where the inventor wasn't a Ph.D."

The suit targets device-makers inside of handset makers because the chipset manufacturer might not know which chips are bound for the U.S. where the patent is enforceable, but the device-maker would.

"You can find a way to do it [use Bluetooth] that doesn't infringe on the patents, or you can buy it from Broadcom. That's why WRF is not going to sit back and let it go without it being addressed," Lisa said.
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