Apple Loses Patent Lawsuit to University of Wisconsin

Mike Segar, reporting for Reuters:

Apple Inc could be facing up to $862 million in damages after a U.S. jury on Tuesday found the iPhone maker used technology owned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s licensing arm without permission in chips found in many of its most popular devices.

The jury in Madison, Wisconsin also said the patent, which improves processor efficiency, was valid. The trial will now move on to determine how much Apple owes in damages. […]

The jury was considering whether Apple’s A7, A8 and A8X processors, found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as several versions of the iPad, violate the patent.

Cupertino, California-based Apple denied any infringement and argued the patent is invalid, according to court papers. 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.

AppleInsider has more on the patent in question:

The IP in question, U.S. Patent No. 5,781,752 for a “Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer,” was granted to a University of Wisconsin team led by Dr. Gurindar Sohi in 1998. According to WARF and original patent claims, the ‘752 patent focuses on improving power efficiency and overall performance in modern computer processor designs by utilizing “data speculation” circuit, also known as a branch predictor.

For what it’s worth, in 2012 Business Insider ranked the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation fifth on its list of most-feared patent trolls. Rockstar Consortium, which is partially owned by Apple, was third on that list, so don’t shed any tears for Apple. The whole system is rotten.

Update: The more I think about it, the more sure I am that it’s wrong to call WARF a patent “troll”. They are a non-practicing entity, but a university almost has to be. Universities don’t produce commercial products, they conduct research. And WARF uses its patent royalties to fund research. I have no idea whether this particular patent is a “good” one — I lack the expertise to make heads or tails out of it. But “patent troll” has a specific meaning beyond simply “entity that sues to enforce patent rights”, and WARF doesn’t fit.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015