Apple Infringed on University of Wisconsin Patent, Says Jury

The patent is related to chip technology found in Apple's A7, A8 and A8X processors, which are used in iPhones and iPads.

Apple, patents, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WARF, A9 processor, iPhone6, iPhone 5s, smartphones, iPads, patent infringement

Apple has been found by a federal jury to have infringed on a chip technology patent held by the University of Wisconsin and could have to pay damages of some $862 million.

The patent involves chip technology that the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) alleged in a 2014 lawsuit infringed on a patent held by WARF, according to an Oct. 13 story by Reuters.

After a seven-day trial, the federal jury in Madison, Wis., held that Apple used the chip technology without WARF's permission, the article reported. WARF is a private, nonprofit patent and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The WARF lawsuit alleged that Apple illegally used the patented technology in its A7, A8 and A8X processors, which have been used in iPhones and iPads, the article said. The processors are found in Apple's iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus smartphones, as well as in several recent iPad models. The patented technology improves the efficiency of the processors used in the devices.

The jury will now follow its verdict with deliberations on how much money Apple must pay to WARF in damages for the infringement of its 1998 patent, according to the Reuters article.

In court papers, Apple "denied any infringement and argued the patent is invalid," the article reported. "Apple previously tried to convince the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review the patent's validity, but in April, the agency rejected the bid."

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge William Conley, said that Apple could have to pay up to $862.4 million in damages, according to Reuters. A third phase of the trial, which will follow the damages phase, will look at whether "Apple infringed the patent willfully, which could lead to enhanced penalties."

WARF also has a second lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the company used the chip technology in the latest generation of its A9 and A9X processors, which are built into the latest iPhone 6S and 6S Plus and in the new iPad Pro, the Reuters article reported.

A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment on the case in response to an email inquiry from eWEEK.

A spokeswoman for WARF told eWEEK that the organization does not comment on ongoing litigation, but added: "With that in mind, I can offer that WARF did prevail on liability at trial but evidence regarding damages has yet to be presented so the number being reported in the press is not based on any evidence that has been presented to date in the trial."

Apple has certainly been involved in patent fights previously, including a four-year-long battle that still continues with Samsung. In July, several Silicon Valley giants, including Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and eBay, filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting Samsung in its patent fight with Apple. That case includes an earlier decision ordering Samsung to turn over profits from a handful of Apple patents that it allegedly infringed upon, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

In its original patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung, Apple argued that Samsung's smartphones mimicked Apple's design, with a rectangular body, rounded edges and other features. In August 2012, a California jury found that Samsung infringed on Apple's patents in the design of its tablets and smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 10.1 tablets and such smartphone models as the Captivate, the Galaxy S line, the Fascinate and the Epic 4 G. The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple more than $1.05 billion in damages, which was later reduced to about $930 million, according to earlier eWEEK reports.

Then, in May 2015, an appeals court threw out another $382 million of the award related to aesthetic design elements like rounded corners on smartphones and the shape of apps. That means that Samsung is still liable to pay Apple more than $500 million in connection with the original jury verdict. That amount represents the total profit of Samsung's infringing Galaxy products to Apple to make up for profit Apple lost in sales to Samsung Galaxy devices, according to the InsideSources report. Samsung then asked the court to review that decision in June.

In February, a federal jury in Texas ordered Apple to pay $852.9 million to Smartflash LLC to compensate the company for infringing on several Smartflash patents in Apple's iTunes music software, eWEEK reported at the time. Smartflash alleged in its lawsuit that Apple violated its patents in three ways in iTunes relating to digital rights management, inventions related to data storage and managing access through payment systems.