Patent infringement claims made by individuals are rarely successful, but a US action involving Sony, Nokia and others appears to be gaining momentum.

The individual concerned is Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, a retired University of Columbia professor, who currently holds an emeritus chair there.

Pay up or shut up

Rothschild claims Sony and around 30 other electronics companies are illegally using her intellectual property in various Blu-ray products and some related areas.

According to a her legal team, the basis for her claim is a 1993 US patent granted to her that, "covers a method of producing wide band-gap semiconductors for LEDs ... in the blue/ultraviolet end of the spectrum."

In other words, Professor Rothschild could be due a sizeable slice of the £3.5 billion worth of products using such technology due to be sold over the next year. Sony declined to comment on the action.