Laptop foundation sued over keyboard design
A Nigerian entrepreneur based in Natick says the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, of Cambridge, stole his company’s design for a multilingual keyboard.
Ade Oyegbola, founder and CEO of Lagos Analysis Corp., or Lancor, has sued the foundation in Nigeria, where the company’s keyboard is patented.
Oyegbola said he also plans to sue in US courts.
‘‘They can either do the right thing, sit down like they sat down with other companies and negotiate a royalty,’’ said Oyegbola, ‘‘or they can just stop.’’
Robert Fadel, the foundation’s director of operations, said in a written statement that he would not comment.
‘‘OLPC has not seen any legal papers related to the alleged suit as of this time,’’ Fadel said. ‘‘OLPC has the utmost respect for the rights of intellectual property owners. To OLPC’s knowledge, all of the intellectual property used in the XO Laptop is either owned by OLPC or properly licensed.’’
Nigeria is one of several developing countries currently testing the foundation’s XO laptop. Dozens are being used at an elementary school outside the capital city of Abuja. The foundation ultimately hopes to produce the laptops for $100 or less, and sell them by the millions to Nigeria and other developing countries, which will give the laptops to poor schoolchildren.
Oyegbola said his company spent seven years developing the Konyin Nigeria Multilingual Keyboard, which can easily reproduce the unusual punctuation marks used in dozens of Nigerian languages and dialects.
Oyegbola said Nicholas Negroponte, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who set up the foundation, purchased two Konyin keyboards in August 2006. In early January 2007, the foundation displayed an early version of its laptop at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. A friend of Oyegbola who owned a Konyin keyboard saw the XO laptop and was struck by its resemblance to Lancor’s product.
Oyegbola claims that the foundation not only reverse-engineered his keyboard’s software, but published it on a website used by its software developers. ‘‘They took our code and made it open source for all the world to see,’’ Oyegbola said.
(By Hiawatha Bray, Globe staff)