WARF v. Apple
Last Friday, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ordered Apple to pay the Wisconsin Alumni Research foundation (WARF) $ 234 million in damages for patent infringement.
The dispute is about a single patent US 5,781,752 under the name “Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer” which covers technology that “improves the efficiency and performance of contemporary computer processors.” The ‘752 technology appears in Apple’s A7 processor that was used in iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini. WARF, the licensing agency of University of Wisconsin, is the original assignee of the ‘752 patent. The inventors include several current and former researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Interestingly, WARF already sued Intel in 2008 for infringing this very patent in Intel’s Core 2 Duo Microprocessor and the suit resulted in a settlement of allegedly 110 million. Also interestingly, the ‘752 patent, which was issued in 1998, is due to expire in December next year.
The damage verdict came four days after a jury found infringement on Monday (Oct 12th). The presiding District Judge William M. Conley ruled on Thursday that the infringement was not willful and excluded treble damages. WARF filed this suit in February 2014, citing apple’s policy of “not accepting or considering proposals to license technology from outside groups.” In response, Apple sought to have the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) review the validity of the ‘752 patent, but PTAB declined the request.
After the ruling, Apple said it plans to appeal. WARF, on the other hand, just launched a second suit against Apple targeting the newer chips and devices, including the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and iPad Pro. In any case, as the first U.S. company worth more than $ 700 billion, Apple is unlikely to be significantly affected by damage payments of “merely” hundreds of millions. However, it remains to be seen if other universities and patent owners may feel emboldened by this verdict and follow suit – against Apple, or other tech giants of similar rank.
SimpleAir v. Google, round 2
Also last week, another tech giant Google successfully defended itself in a patent infringement suit brought by a non-practicing entity (NPE) SimpleAir, Inc.
SimpleAir initially filed suit in January 2014, accusing Google and Youtube of violating the patent 8,572,279 and 8,601,154, both describing “systems and methods for transmission of data” to remote computing devices. In response, Google argued that the patents are invalid under section 101 and Alice.
A jury in the Eastern District of Texas concluded that Google did not prove the invalidity of the patents. However, it also did not find sufficient proof for the infringement claim, awarding Google some sweet revenge after it lost to SimpleAir in the last round of court battle.
In that previous episode , SimpleAir filed suits against 11 technology companies including Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and Huawei for infringing its patent 7,035,914, which is the parent patent of ‘279 and ‘154, the two patents-in-dispute of round 2. Contrary to some other prominent co-defendants , Google did not settle with SimpleAir and ultimately was ordered to pay SimpleAir $85 Million. Google is currently appealing this verdict to the Federal Circuit.
Inventor Holdings v. Google
A settlement was reached in another legal suit involving Google and Alice. 573 U.S. __, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014).
In Feb 2014, Inventor Holding Inc., a non-practicing entity, sued Google for infringement. The patent in case is U.S. 8558921 that was invented by and originally assigned to Jay Walker, the patent savvy founder of Priceline.com. Basically, it covers photo – tagging techniques that were used in Google’s Google Plus and Picasa platforms. Google argued again that the patent is invalid under Alice, reasoning that the claims in the patent add “no inventive concept” to the abstract idea of identifying and labeling photographs based on the name of the person in the photo and should therefore be invalidated. Last Friday, they reached an agreement and the infringement claims were dismissed with prejudice.