University Wisconsin-Madison Beats Apple in Patent Infringement Suit

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison—or more specifically the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)—won a decisive patent infringement victory against Apple Inc. Monday. A jury found that Apple was infringing on a patent owned by the University's licensing arm that improves processor efficiency. According to the Judge, Apple could face as much as US$862.4 million in damages.

The suit targeted Apple's A7, A8 and A8X processors used in iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as some iPad models. A separate suit was launched in September that covers the A9 processor used in iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

Apple's A7 Processor

Apple's A7 Processor
Source: Wikimedia

The patent was granted in 1998. Apple denied that it was infringing the patent, but it also tried to get the patent to be declared invalid. The jury upheld the patent, and an earlier effort by Apple to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review the patent was denied. WARF already won a settlement from Intel following a 2008 suit over the same patent.

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge William Conley said that Apple could be liable for as much as $862.4 million in damages. Damages have not actually been set, however, and the amount Apple owes will depend in part on the third and next phase of the trial where the jury will be asked to find whether Apple's infringement was willful.

WARF is a nonprofit organization representing both the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Morgridge Institute for Research, a nonprofit research institute affiliated with the University. In addition to licensing patents developed at those two institutions, WARF supports the University of Wisonsin-Madison through research grants.

Apple hasn't commented on the case or announced whether it will appeal.

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Interesting. I’m sure it would be nice for UW to get some extra cash and considering that they won vs Intel it seems likely. But a 1998 patent applied to a 2013+ technology? How relevant could it really be? ARM processors were not much of a thing back then (wiki pages says they were invented in 1980s but were not popular until 2005 mobile devices) and Apple’s foray into ARM processors is much later, so the technology would be much changed since the patent was filed.

IMHO, it would be useful for a patent holder to share the idea and make money but it is very counter productive to sit on a patent for over a decade and when someone else invents the same thing then sue them. How does that help our economy? If Apple got the idea from UW’s designs then they should definitely pay. Otherwise it seems rather a stretch.

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