February 1, 2002

HP Lawsuit Will Not Affect C.U.

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Although the University’s pending lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard may not be resolved in the near future, Cornell students will not be affected, according to University officials.

Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president of University relations, stated that the lawsuit “creates tensions within the corporation and the University.” However, he added that the suit would not affect student recruitment by the corporation. “The company will continue to recruit [Cornell] graduates because it is in their interest to do so,” Dullea said.

“This is an isolated patent issue,” said Patricia McClary, University Counsel. “Equipment [on campus] will not be affected.”

The University is suing Hewlett-Packard for a patent infringement of Professor Emeritus H.C. Torng’s work (US Patent No. 4,807,115). Damages could potentially exceed $100 million, according to Cornell News Services.

Cornell filed a complaint against Hewlett Packard on Dec. 27, 2001, but the issue may not be resolved for ‘a very long time,” according to Dullea.

“Patent infringement is not unusual. In most cases, the company using the idea works with you on a licensing agreement and it doesn’t come to a disagreement. Litigation is unusual, but licensing is not,” said Dullea.

For example, Intel Corp. has a licensing agreement with the University. Intel recognized Torng’s work and named Torng the first Intel Academic Research Fellow.

Torng’s invention, which took him twenty years to complete, accelerates a computer’s processing speed.To describe his invention, Torng used a metaphor of the New York Thruway. “Think of a New York Thruway where there is one lane and when one car stalls, all other cars are stuck,” he said. “Each [computer instruction] is like a car. I looked beyond stalled instructions to see if any other instructions could be processed [simultaneously].”

Torng, a retired professor, began his work in the 1960’s and patented his invention in the early 1980’s. Torng was a professor at Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering during the time of the research. He stated he was not at liberty to comment on the actual lawsuit.

The Hewlett-Packard patent suit is not the first of its kind for the University. The University also has a lawsuit pending against Zeiss Optical Company, a corporation that produces lenses for microscopes and telescopes, according to Dullea.

University counsel James J. Mingle, and Robert Lee Constable, dean for computing and information, did not wish to comment on the Hewlett-Packard lawsuit.

Mingle only stated that the University had filed a complaint. Hewlett-Packard’s legal department was not available for comment. According to Dullea, Hewlett-Packard is “challenging the patent itself.”

From a student perspective, Jordan Erenrich ’02, the president of the Association of Computer Science Undergraduates said, “I find it very reassuring that discoveries and research are protected by Cornell.”


Archived article by Jamie Yonks