Caltech Accuses Apple of Violating its Patented Wi-Fi Technologies

Apple and Broadcom have been jointly named as defendants in a legal complaint filed by the California Institute of Technology last week over alleged infringement of its various patented Wi-Fi-related technologies.

Caltech-Wi-Fi
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 the four asserted patents in question.

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 following: iPhone 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.

Apple has at least temporarily pulled stock of its AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Wi-Fi base stations from its U.S. stores, but it's unclear if the move is related.

Broadcom, as one of Apple's main suppliers of Wi-Fi chips, is also named in the complaint. Apple currently uses Broadcom chips in the Apple Watch, iPhones, and iPads, as well as its line of Macs that support 802.11ac, including the MacBook Air, Retina MacBook Pro, and iMac.

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.

Caltech has demanded a jury trial against Apple and Broadcom, along with a preliminary and permanent sales injunction in the U.S. against the aforementioned products. The university also seeks "adequate" damages, and other relief that the court deems "just and equitable," but it did not provide a specific settlement target.

The asserted patents 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.

Top Rated Comments

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55 months ago
It sounds to me like this would strictly be a problem with Broadcom... it doesn't seem to me that Apple should be found liable for using parts supplied by Broadcom which violate these patents. Apple just wants wifi chips - I don't think the inner workings that are detailed would be something they'd look at before making a purchase.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago
Wouldn't patent exhaustion mean they can only actually sue BroadCom? You know, since Apple is just buying the chips, while BroadCom are the ones designing and manufacturing them and thus having to license the relevant patents.

Also, wouldn't these patents' inclusion in wi-fi standards mean they have to license them under FRAND terms and *can't* try to get sales injunctions?

Seems like Caltech is going the patent troll route instead.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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55 months ago
Is this a problem with Apple simply not licensing anything ever? It seems like they're getting sued over just about everything these days.

Up next: Apple getting sued over employees using breathing technology owned by air inc.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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55 months ago
Apple needs to send over a large truck to the campus and say we are here to collect every alleged infringing product.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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55 months ago
Do the math. Apple sitting on a mountain of cash. CalTech hemorrhaging cash (just like any other university). For the past two decades big colleges and universities have expanded their 'business operations' to chase down anything that even closely smells like it could generate a buck. They will claim anything and any idea, even if only the sound of it once simply drifted over their campus.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago
If Broadcom and Apple are in the wrong, why would they take years to do something about this? It seems like they wait around for more products to be released so as to be more impactful when they do bring it up. Or maybe it just takes a really long time to do this legal stuff, I have no idea.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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