After reading the Chronicle of Philanthropy today, I am embarrassed to be a husky. The University of Washington is using a team of lawyers to take a widely-used, innovative technology away from consumers so that the University can profit.
I use Bluetooth to control my lego robot. My friends use it to talk on the phone. My dad uses it for his wireless mouse. The Washington Research Foundation, charged with defending the patents of the University of Washington, is claiming that all companies involved in the manufacture or distribution of Bluetooth technology are in violation of a patent for a radio-frequency technology developed by one of the University’s electrical engineering students in the mid-nineties. (I checked Google patent search, but I didn’t find anything of the sort)
The purpose of patents is to promote innovation. Would that student have been less likely to develop the technology in question if he knew that his university wouldn’t be able to sue anyone who used it ten years later? Not bloody likely!
Many universities have committed to release their patents into the public domain, or at the very least, not litigate against companies trying to bring new technology to consumers. Why can’t my Univeristy do that?
PS Due to Blogger switching out of Beta, a few people have told us that it republished all of our posts for the last month. I’m really really sorry about that, and if it happened to you, I would be happy to issue a sufficiently grovel-ridden email to you and anyone who might have been waiting to leave for a movie while you were cursing your rss reader.