On November 30, Washington Research Foundation filed a patent infringement lawsuit against ten defendants, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and HP. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the lawsuit alleges that the technology companies infringe on patents that the plaintiff has the exclusive licensed to use and enforce.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff, Washington Research Foundation, is a nonprofit organization in Washington State that is charged with the review of technology disclosures by the University of Washington and other Washington research institutions. The Foundation is also responsible for seeking and enforcing patents, copyrights, and other applicable legal protections for technology developments by the institutions.
The complaint alleges that University of Washington researcher Edwin A. Suominen developed 14 inventions used in radio frequency technology and Bluetooth® communication systems. Patents for these inventions were issued to Suominen, but the University of Washington owns all right, title, and interest in the patents pursuant to an assignment agreement between the University and Suominen. In turn, the Washington Research Foundation (named plaintiff in this case) owns an exclusive license to these patents.
The patents at issue are nearly all entitled “Simplified high frequency tuner and tuning method” (except as noted):
- U.S. Patent No. 5,937,341
- U.S. Patent No. 6,427,068
- U.S. Patent No. 6,631,256
- U.S. Patent No. 7,116,963
- U.S. Patent No. 7,606,542
- U.S. Patent No. 7,606,549, entitled “Selective channel tuner and tuning method”
- U.S. Patent No. 7,639,996
- U.S. Patent No. 7,853,225
- U.S. Patent No. 7,853,239
- U.S. Patent No. 7,860,482
- U.S. Patent No. 7,925,238
- U.S. Patent No. 8,005,450
- U.S. Patent No. 8,116,705
- U.S. Patent No. 8,140,043
In a prior case from 2007 in which the Washington Research Foundation sued a company over Bluetooth patents, the defendant company ended up paying $15 million to settle the case, according to an article by Richard Wilson in Electronics Weekly. The large settlement amount in that case may be predictive of the outcome in this case, as well.
Complaint in Washington Research Foundation v. Apple Inc. et al.