Apple faces lawsuit on patent technology

By ADARSHA MALLA
For The News-Letter

Multinational technology giant Apple Inc. has been found by a federal jury to have infringed on a patent on chip technology owned by the University of Wisconsin.

After a week-long trial the federal jury found Apple guilty of using the chip technology without consulting the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), a nonprofit licensing and patent organization that works with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Because of this finding of patent infringement, Apple may have to pay up to $862 million in fines.

WARF claims that Apple used the chip technology in its A7, A8 and A8X processors of iPhones and iPads without WARF’s permission. This chip technology, which improves the efficiency of the devices’s processors, is found in Apple’s iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as in various iPads.

“This is a case where the hard work of our university researchers and the integrity of patenting and licensing discoveries has prevailed,” Carl Gulbrandsen, the managing director of WARF, told the BBC. “The jury recognized the seminal computer processing work that took place on our campus.”

Now that Apple has been found guilty of illegally using the patent technology, the jury must determine how much Apple must pay WARF in damages.

Apple has recently tried to convince the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider the validity of WARF’s patent, but this notion was rejected in April. Subsequently, Apple has denied that it infringed upon the patent, which Apple claims is entirely invalid.

The damage cost, according to U.S. District Judge William Conley, could be upwards of $862.4 million, but more importantly, the retribution that Apple will have to pay WARF may be amplified if the company is found to have willfully infringed the patent.

On top of this, WARF is suing Apple for using the same patented chip technology in its second round of release of the iPhone 6, 6S and 6S Plus, as well as in its recently released iPad Pro.

Apple is no rookie when it comes to patent conflicts, as it is still involved in a four-year-long struggle with another tech giant, Samsung. However, to add to this struggle, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell and eBay submitted a “friend of the court” brief in June, in which these companies have filed their support of Samsung in its fight against Apple.

In the case against Samsung, Apple claimed that Samsung’s smartphones copied the iPhone design, specifically with regards to the rectangular body and round edges.

In 2012, a California jury found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s design patents in the Samsung Captivate, Galaxy S line, Fascinate and Epic 4G products. Samsung was initially ordered to pay over a billion dollars in damages to Apple, which was subsequently reduced to $930 million.

In May 2015, an appeals court ruled that Samsung does not owe Apple $382 million, but this still leaves Samsung liable for paying over half a billion dollars to Apple. This figure represents the amount of revenue that Apple lost to Samsung based upon the sales of Galaxy devices. Samsung, however, is continuing to ask the court to further diminish the damages it must pay Apple.

In yet another Apple-related patent struggle, a federal court in Texas ordered Apple to pay $852.9 million to Smartflash LLC this February based upon Apple’s infringement of Smartflash’s music software patents.

In its iTunes software, Apple was found to have violated Smarthflash’s patents regarding digital rights management and inventions related to data storage and managing access through payment systems.

Apple continues to struggle with patent infringement on both sides of the law.

As its Samsung case continues, Apple will have to balance its legal battles with the production of new products.

As can be seen in the “friend of the court” brief, several of Apple’s competitors have publicly expressed disapproval of Apple’s policies.

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