James Fergason, whose experiments with liquid crystal at Westinghouse, helped pave the way for the multibillion dollar LCD market received the MIT-Lemelson prize this week, a $500,000 award given annually to an inventor to honor his or her achievements.
But he won't keep the money. He will instead donate it to help the cause of independent inventors. These individual inventors, he said, often get steamrolled by large corporations. It's the other side of the patent debate. Over the past two years, large companies have complained about a growing number of patent lawsuits filed by relatively unknown companies and individuals and have tried to paint themselves as victims. Fergason asserted that the victim is usually the little guy.
"I think that what they (large companies) want to do is get something for nothing," he said in an interview. "In most cases, the defendant has a lot of opportunities to prove they aren't infringing."
Meanwhile, Dr. Sidney Pestka, who helped pioneer the use of the protein Interferon, will receive the organization's lifetime achievement award, which includes a $100,000 honorarium. Interferon is used to treat, among other diseases, hepatitis A and C.
Earlier this year, the Lemelson foundation, named after noted inventor and litigant James Lemelson, gave its student award to Carl Dietrich for a flying car.