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Boston University sues Apple over iPhone, iPad, Macbook patent infringement

Boston University is asking a court to stop sales of the iPhone (opens in new tab), iPad (opens in new tab) and MacBook Air (opens in new tab) over claims the company has infringed on a patent filed by one of its professors in 1997.

The institution is claiming that a semiconductor used in the products was invented by Theodore D. Moustakas, professor of electrical and computer engineering, with the patent entrusted to the university.

The technology, known as "Highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films (opens in new tab)", allows for the generation of blue LED lasers.

It is alleged by the institution that the "Defendant's acts of infringement have caused and will continue to cause substantial and irreparable damage to the university." They are seeking a cut of all previous profits made from the products, plus interest.

In order to win the case, Boston University will have to prove that professor Moustakas and the institution were planning to make a business out of the patent.

It is highly improbable that the sales or shipments of the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air will be halted as a result of the action.

In the past year the university has also filed lawsuits against Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite (opens in new tab) and Fire (opens in new tab), Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 (opens in new tab) and the Samsung/Google Chromebook (opens in new tab) for the same infringement.

The Boston Herald (opens in new tab) has reported that the university is claiming that at least one company, yet unidentified, already pays a license to use the component.

Last year Boston University released a piece of research which found that the cost of so called "patent trolling" is costing the American economy up to $29 billion (£19 billion) a year.

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.