University of Minnesota sues AT&T, Sprint, other cell providers over patents

The University of Minnesota on Wednesday sued the four largest wireless carriers in the U.S. over alleged patent infringement.

Complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota contend that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are illegally using technology developed by a university professor to improve their 4G wireless-data service, the St. Paul Pioneer Press ( ) reported.

The complaint refers to five patents that cover wireless communications innovations developed by University of Minnesota professor Georgios Giannakis and others described as his co-inventors. The university says Giannakis' work improves network reliability and performance.

"These innovations are important aspects of the 4G LTE service that all four companies use and promote to their millions of customers nationwide," the university said in a statement.

"4G" is the highest-speed wireless-data service the carriers offer. The term typically refers to Long Term Evolution, or LTE, technology, which customers use for Internet connectivity and also for enhanced voice communication, according to the newspaper.

University President Eric Kaler said the school "must vigorously protect our faculty, those discoveries and the overall interests of our University."

Royalties from licensing and the commercialization of work done throughout the University of Minnesota totaled nearly $40 million last year. The university is seeking what it calls "a fair royalty from the companies for their unlicensed used of the technology" and is asking for a jury trial.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon declined to comment to the newspaper. Sprint did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press,