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Thursday, July 22, 1999

Amar Bose's son locked in patent battle with MIT 

Bala Murali Krishna  
New York, July 21: Vanu Bose, son of the high-quality Bose audio systems' designer, is locked in a battle with his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The junior Bose, who heads a startup called Vanu Inc., is seeking exclusive rights to a technology he developed and patented as a PhD student at MIT. At present, he is only listed as its inventor.

MIT holds the patent and is not ready to do what it did years ago to the senior Bose -- give away technology developed at its lab for nothing. At the heart of the current dispute is the software radio, which can enable use of a number of wireless devices -- such as a cellular phones and door-openers -- on a single system.

According to Vanu Bose, MIT demanded $1.25 million in licensing fees over eight years in addition to royalties and an equity stake in Vanu Inc. The junior Bose, 34, is calling MIT's terms unfair and, as the battle has gone on for about a year.

He said that he is no longer looking for a simple deal for his company, butan equitable solution that is fair to all students caught in similar tangles. "Our goal now is to try and effect a policy change at MIT," Bose said. Bose questioned the MIT demand for cash payment by a startup and of equity because "they (MIT) are not taking any risks" in Vanu Inc. "I feel the deal can be one or the other," he said, referring to licensing fees or royalties. Besides, Bose maintains that the technology in question for the software radio is not at the heart of Vanu Inc's commercial effort. "It does not make sense to give away a chunk of the company" for a minor technology, Bose said, adding that "it doesn't seem reasonable for them to benefit from them." MIT said that the ongoing negotiations with Vanu Inc are business as usual. Lita Nelsen, director of the institute's technology licensing office, said, "We do about 90 agreements and 20 startups every year" with the technology developed at MIT. "Everything is normal," she said. While declining to discuss details, she claimed there were"substantial distortions in interpretations" made in a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The senior Bose, 68, who is still a professor at MIT, was quoted by the Journal as saying, "What MIT did for me is unbelievable. What's happening now is painful". Amar Bose, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering at MIT in 1956, started the Bose Corporation, a big success in the market for its high-quality audio systems. His personal wealth, estimated to be more than half a billion dollars has earned him a ranking in Forbes magazine's list of richest people in the United States. The Bose Foundation, which he also runs, has donated more than $6 million to MIT, according to the Journal. The junior Bose, who grew up on the MIT campus, has received bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from MIT.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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