Smartphone LTE patent usage University of Minnesota pictureOur nation's universities are on the forefront of research and innovation. Brimming with clever, inquisitive minds and endowed with support from generous alumni, college researchers and academics are able to make advances in science, medicine, and even the paranormal. Personally, I don't recall my own college years being filled with an abundance of good ideas, but the results speak for themselves. And one university is taking legal action to ensure their innovations aren't infringed upon.

The University of Minnesota (U of M) is suing four of the largest wireless carriers in the US, alleging patent infringement. The school is filing four separate lawsuits against AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, claiming that the companies are illegally using technology developed by U of M professor Georgios Giannakis related to their 4G LTE service. For those not familiar, 4G is the highest speed wireless data service available from providers, while LTE, or Long Term Evolution, technology provides internet connectivity and enhanced voice communications.

The five patents referenced in the suits, developed by Giannakis and his co-inventors, improve network performance and reliability, the university says. In a statement, U of M said, "these innovations are important aspects of the 4G LTE service that all four companies use and promote to their millions of customers nationwide." University president Eric Kaler also stated that "we must vigorously defend our faculty, those discoveries, and the overall interests of our university." While the suits have not named a dollar amount, the university is seeking damages and royalties from the telecommunication giants. The university made $40 million in revenue last year from royalties and licensing fees generated by patents they hold.

While you may not have a breakthrough telecommunications innovation (yet), that doesn't mean you shouldn't be watchful when it comes to your invention or idea. A periodic check of the internet and competitors can help you ensure that your intellectual property (IP) is not being infringed upon. And if you do find that someone else is using your ideas, you want to be sure your idea has legal protection so you can take action. If you don't take the time to protect your IP, it could end up being seven years down the drain, so to speak.

If you're an inventor, you need to start identifying and protecting your potential IP.
Or...someone else will do it for you.

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