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Patents Prove Cell Phone Dangers?

written by Elissa Batista
Feb 22, 2002


Suder is perhaps best known for filing a high-profile $800 million lawsuit against the cell-phone industry, claiming its products gave her client, Chris Newman -- a neurologist in Baltimore -- a brain tumour.

That case won't be heard by a judge until next week, but Suder's already considering 36 more lawsuits against the industry, which she contends sells products that are harmful to consumers.


Even though the scientific research goes both ways, the industry continues to proclaim its innocence.


"Years of scientific research reaffirm there are no health risks associated with wireless phones," said Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak.


Most recently, Suder accused the wireless industry of "putting a spin" on a Federal Trade Commission decision to sue two companies for falsely advertising technology that purportedly shielded cell-phone users from radiation. While Suder agreed the FTC should crack down on fraudulent claims, she said the cell-phone industry's reaction to the news showed it had a lot to hide in terms of the health risks associated with its products.


"It appears that the wireless communications industry is putting a spin on the FTC's action or inaction," Suder said. "This creates the appearance that these snake oil devices don't work because you do not need protective devices. This is clearly untrue.... Cell phone radiation is dangerous and causes cellular damage that can result in tumors and death."


Her evidence -- which she will present in federal district court in Baltimore next week -- that cell phones wreak such havoc? "Dozens and dozens" of patents filed by the industry to create radiation-shielding technology.


Nokia filed one of these patents on July 28, 1998, according to the U.S. patent office. The patent contains a description for the creation of a device that would protect the cells in a user's head from radiation.


"It has been suggested that radio frequency irradiation may stimulate extra growth among supportive cells in the nerve system, which in the worst case it has been suggested could lead to a development of a malignant tumour," the Nokia patent states. "Although the consequences described above have not been scientifically verified, the uncertainty has some effects by reducing the speed of growth of the market of radiophones." Motorola, Ericsson and other handset manufacturers own similar patents, Suder said. "Those patents aren't snake oil," she said. "They're from the defendants' mouths themselves."


The cell-phone industry remains confident it will quash Suder's evidence in court.

Nowak dismissed the Nokia patent touted by Suder as a patent "on antenna efficiency," not a disease-fighting tool. "The more efficiently the phone can work, the better" it is for the consumer, Nowak said. While Nokia won't have its day in court next week -- it isn't one of the defendants of Suder's lawsuit –- it may face Suder's wrath in another lawsuit.


Next week, a judge will sift through scientific evidence provided by both Suder and the cell-phone industry to determine whether Chris Newman, 41, got a brain tumour from using a cellular phone. The defendants in that lawsuit are Motorola, Verizon Communications, Bell Atlantic Corp., Bell Atlantic Mobile, SBC Communications, the Telecommunication Industry Association, and Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.



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