Earlier this week a court in Madison County, Wisconsin, USA ruled that Apple had infringed upon a patent held by the University of Wisconsin-Madison relating to performance boosting technology in microchips relating to the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus.
While the near $900m dollar damages are short change for Apple the case does throw up questions about cutting corners in the tech world.
What are the patents?
The patents relate to a specific patent which was filed by WARF, the University of Madison-Wisconsin’s licencing arm, in 1998. This centres around chip efficiency, technology which was found to be used in Apple’s A7, A8 and A8X processors which affect the iPhone 5s, 6, 6 Plus as well as some iPads.
Who is to blame?
Well, Apple says no-one is. The Cupertino based company had tried to question the patent’s validity with the US Patent and Trademark Office but this was thrown out leading to the case being pursued in the Wisconsin courts. A jury has already agreed upon the validity of the patent and now must decide upon Apple’s guilt and, ultimately, how much damages the company must pay.
Should I be worried?
The short answer is no, nobody is going to come and take away your iPhone and unfortunately such infringements are becoming increasingly common in the mobile sphere from a development point of view. Samsung for instance were forced to pay some half a billion dollars in damages to Apple over patent infringements. This current infringement could be worth up to $868 million dollars in damages which is costly, but it will no doubt be appealed by Apple. What is interesting is that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has already filed a second case against Apple, this time relating to the current generation of iPhone chips the A9 and A9X which are seen in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, both devices which have only just been released.
While there may also be damages relating to these chips which could well see the total damages case exceed the $1bn mark mobile app developers can rest at ease knowing that Apple has it covered. In a similar case with Intel a few years ago the case was settled out of court and it remains to be seen whether the two parties are in discussion about a settlement.
All’s well that ends well?
The case is scheduled to be concluded on Friday, by which time we will know of Apple’s liability in the case as well as the damages it has to pay. There may be penalties too if the company is found to have willfully infringed upon the patent. Whatever the outcome it is unlikely to even scratch the surface of the new iPhone’s success but it does shed some light on the murky waters of patents in technology.