Sycor, Inc.

Sycor was founded in 1966 by Samuel N. Irwin, who had previously worked for Hewlett-Packard. He originally picked the name “Syntronics,” but changed it when he discovered that a New York company already had the name. At one time, Sycor was Ann Arbor’s largest private employer, with over 2000 people. In 1978, it was bought by Northern Telecom, Inc. (NTI, later known as Nortel).

Irwin and Michael R. Levine, who later founded Ann Arbor Terminals, were the named inventors of US Patent 3 760 375, “Source Data Entry Terminal”, which became the subject of a ten-year patent infringement dispute with Datapoint Corporation. In court, Datapoint attacked NTI’s ownership of the patent (unsuccessfully, as NTI had bought Sycor) and looked for prior art. Irwin’s previously employment at HP was looked at, as some of the claims of the ’375 patent appeared to be covered by the HP 2116, but the court did not consider this relevant, as the patent distinguished itself from other general purpose computers. At first, the patent was declared non-enabling, as the specification “inadequately discloses the program of the ’375 device”, but this was later reversed. By the end of 1992, the settlement left Datapoint liable for $7.5 million, with additional payments over the next ten years that were estimated at the time to have the potential to cost the company around $30 million in total.