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Apple and Broadcom sued by Caltech over violation of Wi-fi chips’ patent

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Apple seems to be having a particular run of bad luck with academic universities. After it was ordered by a Jury to pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison damages of a whooping $234 million last year for violating a patent involving processor performance, the company has run into fresh trouble with Caltech for using Wi-Fi chips that infringe some of it’s patent rights.

Caltech filed a lawsuit last Thursday in which it claimed that the Cupertino-giant used patented technology without the university’s prior permission. The university said that its patents are an integral part of the 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and helps allow for faster data transmissions, while also simplifying the hardware needed to offer Wi-Fi.

The university also gave a list of the devices which it believes are in infringement of the patent, which honestly speaking, is quite long.

As per a filing by Caltech,

Apple manufactures, uses, imports, offers for sale, and/or sells Wi-Fi products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents. Apple products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents include, but are not limited to, the followingiPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 4, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 2,MacBook Air [and] Apple Watch.

Actually, Broadcom is the company Caltech is mainly suing. After all, the company provides Apple with the Wi-Fi chips used in iPhone, MacBook, and other Apple products. However, the Cupertino company has been included in the filing since it is Broadcom’s biggest customers and it is its devices which are carrying the offending chips.

Apple is one of Broadcom’s largest customers. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, sales to Apple represented 14.6%, 13.3% and 14.0% of Broadcom Corp.’s net revenue, respectively. During this timeframe, Broadcom’s Wi-Fi products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents were incorporated into Apple’s key products including iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. […] Broadcom and Apple are jointly and severally liable for infringement of the Asserted Patents.

Well, companies of Apple’s stature have been known to fend off hordes of lawsuits on a regular basis. However, its a different matter when the case has universities on the other end. First off, they don’t really do it out of a desire to troll or to gain publicity. Secondly, claims made by universities usually have a basis in fact and are not rejected by juries until it has undergone careful consideration.

So yeah, Apple and Broadcom appear to be heading for some trouble. The technology is vital to the 802.11n and 802.11ac WiFi standards, so the companies don’t really have the option to stop using it either — Unless they have been missing bluetooth lately.

Caltech is hoping to block sales of those products and to recover damages from the infringement — which are probably not going to be slight. Caltech has also demanded a jury trial against Apple and Broadcom, along with a preliminary and permanent sales injunction in the U.S. of America. Meanwhile, the patents involved include U.S. Patent No. 7,116,710, U.S. Patent No. 7,421,032, U.S. Patent No. 7,916,781, and U.S. Patent No. 8,284,833.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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