Has Gertrude Rothschild Become the Ronald Katz of Clean Tech?

Recently, four more electronics companies – Sony, Sanyo, Exceed Perseverance and Lucky Light – took licenses from retired Columbia prof and LED innovator Gertrude Neumark Rothschild.  These four were recently targeted by Rothshild in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in a complaint that named over 25 respondents.

These licensees join Epistar, Toyoda Gosei, Osram and Philips Lumileds, so now eight different companies have taken a license under Rothschild’s U.S. Patent Nos. 4,904,618 and 5,252,499.  The patents relate to methods of doping semiconductors, which means adding impurities to increase the number of free charge carriers.  Rothschild’s patented process made high spectral range LEDs, such as blue and green, commercially feasible. 

Rothschild is quickly becoming the Ronald Katz of LEDs and perhaps the first such phenomenon in clean technology.  Katz was an innovator in the field of automated telephone call center technology and is the named inventor on over 50 patents (full disclosure: I worked on litigation on behalf of Katz for about six months while I was an associate at a previous law firm).  

Katz is now in the business of collecting licensing fees from various companies through both negotiation and litigation.  He has been staggeringly successful in this regard:  more than 200 companies have licensed his technology, and he has made hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are some notable parallels between Katz and Rothschild, including that they are both true innovators of important technology, they are both named inventors on the patents they assert (which some people believe insulates them from the patent troll label) and they are now in the business of collecting license fees instead of practicing their technology. 

Perhaps the most important similarity is that their technology is ubiquitous across many different industries, so there are loads of potential infringement targets.  Companies from many industries including credit cards, pharmacies and utilities use automated telephone calling technology for sales and customer service.  Similarly, LEDs are used by the billions in a wide array of applications from instrument panels to traffic lights to cell phones as an energy-efficient substitute for incandescent bulbs.  It is probably for this reason that Rothschild has initially been so successful following in Katz’s footsteps, and she is likely to end up as filthy rich. 

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.