OLPC Patent Infringement Suit Dismissed by Middlesex Judge

A Middlesex Superior Court Judge has dismissed the case against the One Laptop Per Child Foundation by Nigerian company Lagos Analysis Corporation (Lancor). Lancor claimed that the OLPC Foundation’s XO laptop copied the design of Lancor’s patented Konyin multi-lingual keyboards. The suit asked for $20 million in damages.

A similar case is still pending in Nigeria, where a temporary injunction prohibits OLPC from distributing its laptops in Nigeria.

In August 2007, Lancor sent OLPC a letter claiming that OLPC had reverse engineered its multi-lingual keyboard for the XO laptop — formerly the “Hundred Dollar Laptop” — and asked for $20 million for the “huge economic and financial loss” suffered by Lancor. OLPC refused to pay the sum, requesting proof that it had violated Lancor’s Nigerian patent.

Lancor filed suit for patent infringement in Nigeria in November 2007, naming OLPC, OLPC founder and MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte ’66, and Quanta Computer, the manufacturer of the XO laptop. Nigerian courts stopped OLPC from distributing and marketing the laptop in Nigeria in December 2007 and rejected the OLPC’s February 2008 request for a dismissal.

Following its failure to have the cased dismisse in Nigeria, OLPC filed a preliminary action with the Massachusetts Middlesex Superior Court seeking declaratory relief, which would prevent the case from being brought to Massachusetts courts. Lancor claimed that OLPC had violated copyrighted information of the Konyin keyboards, a federal offense, and attempted to file suit in US federal court.

OLPC argued that Lancor’s original case, that its trade secrets had been violated, was under the jurisdiction of state courts and the copyright infringement claim was unfounded. The case was remanded back to Middlesex in May, and the case was dismissed in October by Judge Thomas Feeley. The case remains open in Nigerian court.

The XO laptop was brought to Lancor’s attention in January 2007 when a friend of Lancor founder Ade Oyegbola noticed a similarity between the Konyin keyboard and the XO keyboard. The Konyin keyboard was released in 2005 and has four shift keys that allow users to type accented letters. The XO laptop has one alternate shift key, which lets users add diacritics to letters as they type. In its suit, Lancor accused OLPC of copying the layout of the Konyin keyboard and stealing its software drivers.

A non-profit foundation started in 2005, OLPC aims provide quality low-cost laptops to children in developing and countries. OLPC’s first laptop, the XO-1, has a 1200 x 900 7.5” LCD screen, wireless connectivity, and is resistant to heat and humidity. An updated version, the XO-2, is slated for release in 2010 and will feature dual touchscreens and will operate on only 1 watt, less than the XO-1’s power consumption of 2-4 watts. A standard laptop runs uses 20-45 watts.