BU has settled several lawsuits alleging that companies infringed a patented technology invented by Theodore Moustakas, a College of Engineering professor (pictured), however that could end up hurting public research, some experts say.Photo credit: Vernon DoucetteThe university went after Apple and Amazon over their use of gallium nitride thin films in the Kindle Paperwhite 6, iPhone 5, and iPad. Use of such films had been patented by a BU College of Engineering professor in the 90s, according to a BU blog post cited in Roberts’ article.

That Jan. 15 post also stated that 25 companies had “settled lawsuits filed by BU alleging infringement of the professor’s patented technology which  dealt with producing blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs).” Those companies had purchased licenses to the patent as part of the settlement agreement.

While it seems positive that BU protected its intellectual property and received compensation for use of their technology, Roberts argues that such lawsuits could actually be part of a negative trend where collaborations between third party businesses and post-secondary institutions take advantage of old patents.

“According to one expert, BU’s activities could produce an ugly chain reaction by inspiring other schools to scrounge for intellectual property money at the expense of public research,” Roberts writes.

His article says such a situation would lead to more expensive products for consumers, since companies would have to pay a higher price to use patented technology, and universities would be spending more time and energy on going after companies for patent infringement, rather than pursuing new research.

Check out his full article here and feel free to weigh in on this issue in our comments section.

- With files from Gigaom and Boston University