Friday, April 12, 2013

Micron Suspends Hiring Students at University of Illinois To Teach Your University Can't Sue Us!

In December 2011, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) filed a patent infringement suit against Micron. You might think this is typical news, but this case has taken a strange twist. Apparently, Micron's hiring coordinator decided that she had enough of this lawsuit (after all 16 months is a long time) and wrote the following to UIUC:
Because Micron remains a defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit that UIUC filed against Micron in Federal court in Illinois on December 5, 2011, effective immediately, Micron will no longer recruit UIUC students for open positions at any of Micron's world-wide facilities.
. . . . [T]he Micron Foundation has endowed chairs at the College of Engineering and has sponsored student scholarship and professor research. However, because UIUC's suit imposes costs and risks on Micron that are inconsistent with collaborative relationships among Micron, UIUC, and its students, Micron must regrettably indefinitely suspend its recruitment of UIUC students and likewise suspend participation in other joint activities.
Professor Dennis Crouch of Patently-O focuses on UIUC's attempt to enjoin Micron in the following article: Although "without tact", Micron's retaliatory decision to stop hiring University of Illinois Graduates is not Illegal. Professor Crouch relates Micron's behavior to his own experience: "I have a policy that I don't hire anyone who sues me. I think [sic, I] would actually take that personally. So does Micron." But the students did not sue Micron so I am uncertain how Professor Crouch's policy is relevant here. Is eliminating a career opportunity for all students at University of Illinois being used to coerce the University to drop the lawsuit? If so, it is surprising and the loss of talent and PR costs may be greater than the benefits of pushing this patent lawsuit to a settlement.

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