Thursday, January 30, 2020

Over WiFi-related patents, L.A. jury awards Caltech $838 million from Apple, $270 million from Broadcom

A Los Angeles jury just awarded the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) $838 million from Apple and $270 million from Broadcom--a total of approximately $1.1 billion--over patents related to the WiFi standard (IEEE 802.11).

WiFi is just a limited part of the technology in a smartphone, and there are numerous patents allegedly essential to that standard as well as non-essential patents with some connection to WiFi. It wouldn't be possible to profitably make phones if one extrapolated a royalty of $1.40 per iPhone--which appears to have been the outcome--to the totality of patents potentially implemented in such a highly complex and multifunctional device.

Based on the complaint as well as Apple and Broadcom's answer to the complaint, I haven't found an indication that the patents are subject to a FRAND licensing commitment. They might cover efficiency gains related to the actual implementation of the standard. I'll update this post, or do a follow-up post, once I've found out.

This is the biggest WiFi damages verdict to my knowledge. Apple and Broadcom have announced their intent to appeal, so we'll see how much of that amount is ultimately awarded. Those verdicts tend to get slashed later on.

The verdict form isn't available on the docket (case no. 2:16-cv-03714, Central District of California) yet.

In jury trials, but not on appeal, university trolls have two psychological advantages over other patent trolls:

  • While conventional trolls have to come up with creative names like "American [Insert Something] Innovations," jurors intuitively associate universities with research and inventiveness.

  • They can claim to pursue a greater good, as opposed to those greedy corporations infringing their patents, as if those university trolls were Robin Hood's patent-related equivalent.

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