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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Jury decides on $234M penalty for Apple in WARF infringement case

Jury decides on $234M penalty for Apple in WARF infringement case
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Oct 19, 2015, 12:06 PM
 
Following a guilty verdict against Apple in a case that claimed the iPhone maker incorporated technology in its A7, A8, and A8X chips covered by a patent held by the University of Wisconsin's Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), a Wisconsin jury has decided that Apple owes the foundation $234 million in damages for its infringement. The award is just over half the among sought by WARF, and considerably less than the $862.4 million it could have faced, but the jury disagreed with a finding of willful infringement.

The technology, created to lower power usage while increasing performance in processors, was used as part of the A7 Apple chip that powered the iPhone 5s and first-gen iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina, and was also used in the iPad mini 3. The A7 was particularly important to Apple, as it was the first of its 64-bit mobile chips, and was particularly popular in part because of that. The jury in the case found Apple guilty of infringing all six patent claims, rejecting Apple's argument that the patent was overly broad, and thus invalid.

Apple's A7 chip. Photo by Chipworks
Apple's A7 chip. Photo by Chipworks


The school's Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which owns the patent, first sued Apple over the use of the patent in early 2014, then waited a year and a half for the trial to finally be held. The damages award decision was reached after only three and a half hours of deliberation. The university also successfully sued Intel over the same patent, receiving an undisclosed sum in 2008. It has another lawsuit pending making the same claims about Apple's A9 and A9x chips.

In its complaint, WARF claims that Apple had a policy of not licensing patents from entities such as the school, which does not use its discoveries in commercial products, and only collects money on the school-created patents to help fund further research; although it doesn't apply in this case, WARF could be seen by some definitions as a "patent troll," since the group itself is merely the guardian of rights for inventions created by students and faculty at the school.

The patent itself, No. 5,781,752, concerns a ""table-based data speculation circuit for [a] parallel-processing computer," or a "predictor circuit," and was awarded in 1998. Apple itself cited the patent in its own filings for its version of the technology, but maintains that it invented its own method of achieving the same ends. The company will almost certainly appeal the ruling, and is likely to ask the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to investigate the patent with a view to finding it invalid.
     
azrich
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Oct 19, 2015, 01:25 PM
 
Interesting lemons. Can't wait to see how Apple makes lemonade out of them.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 19, 2015, 01:46 PM
 
I predict an anonymous patent validity examination request.
     
prl99
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Oct 19, 2015, 02:26 PM
 
I've always wondered how a jury or a judge can make a decision based on a highly technical process like this. We're not talking about something simple and straightforward, we're talking about a way to improve a computer process. I challenge the technical competence of any of the jurists in this case to actually understand what's going on and decide whether Apple designers were able to come up with a similar but not exact way of providing the same type of enhancement. I actually challenge the technical competence of just about everyone, including myself, who reads this website. This process was designed in a school lab almost 20 years ago. Times have changed and gotten more complex not easier. Even if Apple used some of the same ideas that doesn't mean they didn't apply them in a different way to come out with a better solution. I also would have demanded a change in venue to any other state (well, other than Texas).
     
Grendelmon
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Oct 19, 2015, 02:48 PM
 
Originally Posted by prl99 View Post
I've always wondered how a jury or a judge can make a decision based on a highly technical process like this. We're not talking about something simple and straightforward, we're talking about a way to improve a computer process. I challenge the technical competence of any of the jurists in this case to actually understand what's going on and decide whether Apple designers were able to come up with a similar but not exact way of providing the same type of enhancement. I actually challenge the technical competence of just about everyone, including myself, who reads this website. This process was designed in a school lab almost 20 years ago. Times have changed and gotten more complex not easier. Even if Apple used some of the same ideas that doesn't mean they didn't apply them in a different way to come out with a better solution. I also would have demanded a change in venue to any other state (well, other than Texas).

This is the entire point of testimony from technical experts in their respective fields during trial. Should only doctors be jurors in technical medical cases? What about automobile engineers in car accident trials? There is nothing special about this case. Apple lost. Get over it.
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 19, 2015, 04:15 PM
 
Also, whether Apple invented their own version of it or not appears to have been immaterial to this jury. This would suggest that the patent is overly broad, but that's a decision for the USPTO to make ultimately -- and they're qualified to make it. This should not, however, be misinterpreted as a defense of the current patent system or court decisions on such matters. Apple WILL appeal this case, might get it reversed, or not -- but by the time that is all done, the patent will either be validated or thrown out. SEE ALSO: Samsung's legal strategy for everything.
Charles Martin
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jdonahoe
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Oct 19, 2015, 06:12 PM
 
I always thought you had to have a working model to gain a patent.

AMD seemed to find a different way to make a chip like Intel's. I don't remember AMD paying for a large lawsuit. Of course it's been a few years, I could be wrong.
     
JackWebb
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Oct 19, 2015, 06:28 PM
 
Serious question: Do the students who did the work for the original patent get anything for this? If not, did they know their work could be worth so much and did they sign off from receiving anything for their work?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 19, 2015, 06:39 PM
 
Nope. Student research while at the university for things like this belong to the university, by default.
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 19, 2015, 07:30 PM
 
And given that the patent is held by the ALUMNI research foundation, and that all students know their work at university will belong to the university, there's just no issue there on that point. You would be shocked if I told you how much American industry is based entirely off patents or technology developed by schools. Liquidmetal, currently held by Apple, is such an invention.
Charles Martin
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quebit
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Oct 20, 2015, 01:55 AM
 
@Grendelmon

That might seem like a plausible idea, but I'm with prl99 on this one .... I don't believe that even an "expert" in Electrical Engineering could make this subject any more comprehendible to a "laymen" audience, such as a randomly picked jury ... no matter how good an expert is. I believe the whole process is flawed. Even the judge would not possess the necessary technical aptitude to even begin to understand something as intricate as "branch prediction in a CPU pipeline" .... you need "expert" judges, and "expert" juries. I believe that's why the Samsung lawsuits were such a failure as a process (especially true of Judge Koh).
     
quebit
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Oct 20, 2015, 01:59 AM
 
@jdonahoe

No, it's most definitely not true, and unfortunate, that you don't HAVE to have a working prototype. In fact, you don't even need a detailed illustration or a diagram .... just a hand sketch will do !!!

AMD did a "clean room" reverse-engineering of the X86 architecture, and hence, never needed a license from Intel. Where as Intel attempted to "reverse engineer" AMD's 64-bit extension to X86, and they failed :-) So they ended up licensing it from AMD ..... kinda weird poetic justice !!!
     
Grendelmon
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Oct 20, 2015, 09:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by quebit View Post
@Grendelmon

That might seem like a plausible idea, but I'm with prl99 on this one .... I don't believe that even an "expert" in Electrical Engineering could make this subject any more comprehendible to a "laymen" audience, such as a randomly picked jury ... no matter how good an expert is. I believe the whole process is flawed. Even the judge would not possess the necessary technical aptitude to even begin to understand something as intricate as "branch prediction in a CPU pipeline" .... you need "expert" judges, and "expert" juries. I believe that's why the Samsung lawsuits were such a failure as a process (especially true of Judge Koh).
There is nothing plausible about what I said. That is the way that trial courts work and is indisputable. What you and prl99 don't seem to understand is that having average citizens represent juries during trial is a good thing. Your qualification to sit in a jury is not discriminated against due to your skills or abilities, or lack thereof.

You also have to understand that nothing is perfect in the U.S. legal system.
     
   
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