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Professor asks trade body to investigate everyone and their mom

A retired Columbia professor says 30 of the world's biggest consumer electronics makers are violating her patents.

What do you do when some of the biggest names in consumer electronics might be in violation of your patents?

Why, try to take away their right to sell their products in the U.S., of course.

Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray players like this one from Samsung uses technology a former Columbia professor claims she patented. Samsung

Columbia University Professor Emeritus Gertrude Neumark Rothschild says 30 companies are infringing on her patent for laser and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In response, she wants the U.S. government to ban those companies' imports to the U.S. that are in violation. A lot of companies use LEDs and laser diodes for a variety of reasons--Sony uses blue laser diodes in its Blu-ray players, for example, and LEDs are used as light sources in TV and notebook computer screens.

But the list of 30 companies includes many of the giants of the industry: Sony, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Panasonic, Motorola, Nokia, Pioneer, and Samsung.

Sounds like a bit of an uphill climb, right? (Something she probably knows a bit about--Rothschild was the first woman to be named a chair of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science department at Columbia) Well, the U.S. International Trade Commission gave Rothschild a boost when it recently agreed to investigate all 30 companies over her claim.

She also has a history of standing up to the man: Rothschild sued two companies in 2005 over similar semiconductor patents and settled with them out of court.