Apple’s $1.1 Billion Patent Dispute With Caltech Granted New Damages Trial

Apple and its supplier Broadcom today convinced a U.S. appeals court to reject a jury verdict that required them to pay $1.1 billion for infringing on Wi-Fi patents that belong to the California Institute of Technology (via Reuters).

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In 2016, Caltech accused Apple and Broadcom of infringing on its patents related to the Wi-Fi technology used in many Apple devices. Caltech’s patents, granted between 2006 and 2012, are highly technical and relate to IRA/LDPC codes that utilize simpler encoding and decoding circuitry for improved data transmission rates and performance. The technologies are implemented in both the 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards used by many Apple products.

In the court filing with the U.S. District Court for Central California, Caltech accused Apple of selling various iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch models, along with other Wi-Fi products, that incorporate these IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and thereby infringe upon four of Caltech’s patents. Broadcom, as one of Apple’s main suppliers of Wi-Fi chips, was also named in the complaint. At the time, Apple used Broadcom chips in the Apple Watch, ‌iPhone‌, and ‌iPad‌, as well as the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac.

In 2020, a jury verdict ordered Apple and Broadcom to collectively pay Caltech a fine of $1.1 billion for the patent infringements. Apple was ordered to pay $838 million, while Broadcom was ordered to pay $270 million. Apple hoped to invalidate one of the patent claims, but this was subsequently declined by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today declared that the $1.1 billion award, which is one of the largest in U.S. history for a patent dispute, was not justified and ordered a new trial. The new damages trial will only reconsider Caltech’s awarded sum, rather than revisiting the patent infringement itself.

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