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MA Court Grants OLPC's Motions Dismissing Lancor's Claims - Updated 3Xs: Correction - US Case
Saturday, November 22 2008 @ 11:10 AM EST

Do you remember the horrible case against OLPC in Nigeria, where a company called Lancor claimed infringement of its design patent on a keyboard? They were asking for $20 million in damages.

I have some happy news from OLPC News' recent newsletter:

In the domestic Nigerian keyboard case, the court granted OLPC’s motions to dismiss Lancor's claims. This means all of Lancor's claims against OLPC, Nicholas Negroponte, and Quanta were dismissed. Nicholas and Quanta are out of the case. OLPC will proceed with its request for a declaratory judgment in the matter. Many thanks again to the outstanding support from the legal team at Foley Hoag.
I am not surprised, in that OLPC told the court it never used the Lancor keyboard and the design registration Lancor relied on had expired. However, early news from the local court had been discouraging, but now comes this, and so another bogus claim bites the dust. But it's a crying shame a charity had to go through something like this at all. I'll try to get us more details, but I wanted to share this with you right away.

Update: I have been in contact with the OLPC folks. This news is not about Nigeria. It's about the US case, where the OLPC Foundation asked the Middlesex Superior Court in Massachusetts for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement.

Update 2: While I don't yet have the documents from the local Massachusetts court, I do have two documents from the US District Court in Massachusetts. Lagos tried to send the case to the federal court, on a claim of copyright infringement. However, the court sent it back to state court, the Middlesex Superior Court in Massachusetts, in May, where OLPC had originally filed. If you read the two documents regarding where the case should be heard, you'll see what the issues were by each side's descriptions. Here's OLPC's memorandum in support of its motion to remand and Lagos Analysis' opposition memorandum, both PDFs.

Update 3: And here's an update from Tomi Davies, the attorney for OLPC in the Nigerian dispute,about the situation in Nigeria:

ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD (OLPC) IN NIGERIA UPDATE

There has been a lot misunderstanding about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project in the Nigeria media for quite some time now. Due to recent events, it has become necessary to set the records straight after which I shall cease to participate in the media debate, especially because certain aspects of the OLPC activities here in Nigeria are already a matter of litigation in the courts of law. The facts of the matter as I know them are as follows:

1. Originally, it was believed that based on an agreement in principle with the last Administration, a million of the OLPC XO laptops would be acquired by the Federal Government for Nigerian children in basic education. While numerous discussions were held, agreements were not formalised and to date no such purchase has ever been effected and no XO laptops have ever been sold to anyone in Nigeria.

2. The Galadima School pilot was set up in March 2007 to test the XO laptops’ suitability for the Nigerian environment (i.e. epileptic electricity, humidity, dust etc) prior to manufacture of production quantities. The over 300 machines issued to the teachers and children at the school were pre-production Beta Test Versions (1 to 4) of the XO Laptops. The test was very successful and the BBC sent a crew down to film the school children using the machines as an example for the other countries now involved with the OLPC project. The BBC story on the testing can be found on the internet at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/629/629/7113548.stm

3. Production of an enhanced version of the XO laptops started in November 2007 and the BBC carried an announcement of the production start which can be found online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7082701.stm . It is worth noting that all the intellectual property on the XO are in the public domain or Open Source and that OLPC does not use anyone's unlicensed intellectual property. Once production started, we commited to our hosts at the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Education Secretariat that the Galadima teachers and schoolchildren would be provided with the production versions of the laptops. Withdrawal of the test laptops and distribution of the new machines to the Galadima school was deliberately delayed until the end of term in December 2007 so as not to distrupt normal school activities.

4. However, in December 2007, Ade Oyegbola and Walter Oluwole trading under the name and style 'Lancor' (a US Nigerian owned company) obtained an injunction against OLPC prohibiting it from distributing any of its laptops in Nigeria based on their claim that the keyboards on the laptops were a violation of their Konyin Keyboard design patent. The Lagos High Court on Friday 8th february refused an OLPC request for a removal of the Lancor injunction but the $20Million substantive suit is yet to be heard. Details of the lawsuit can be found at http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071226210020415 OLPC's counsel is preparing an appeal to the courts to remove the injunction so that distribution of the production version of the laptops in Nigeria can be effected.

5. OLPC will not violate court orders in Nigeria or elsewhere! This means that the existing injunction has prevented the planned distribution of the new machines to the teachers and children of the Galadima School and to the numerous other organisations that have requested for the machines in Nigeria. Oyegbola and Oluwole (Lancor) objection to OLPC’s activities in Nigeria is clearly not casual as they actually took the Police to go and search the offices of one of the OLPC Nigeria Directors (Dr Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien) in December 2007.

6. The Honourable Minister of Education is on record as clearly stating that his priority is to provide school desks and uniforms which he believes are more critical to the Nigerian primary education than laptops at this stage. For the record, we in OLPC Nigeria agree with the Honourable Minister but we also believe a program such as ours that promotes boundaryless learning should be run in parallel so our children can use the benefits of technology to superior advantage as they learn and grow to face the emerging challenges of the digital age.

7. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the OLPC project around the world and it has started deploying in the Uruguay, Mongolia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Peru and the USA itself to name a few countries. Official and up to date information on the OLPC rollout can be found at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Current_events Posted 11th February 2008 by Tomi Davies

And this article, How Lancor's $20m Suite Stalled OLPC Scheme, in the Nigeria CommunicationsWeek indicates that it is the government that is desirous of this blockage:
The federal government has cancelled the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) scheme initiated by the last administration two years after it became the first country to order and pay for one million of the OLPC.

Dr Aja Nwachukwu, education minister, said that the scheme was discovered to be a "white elephant" project, a conduit pipe to siphon public fund," Nwachukwu said the ministry was working on other options to promote the deployment of ICT at all levels of education.

The OLPC "scheme" -- to help children learn. What a scheme.

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