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Apple fined $234m over iPhone processor patent breach


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Update: Apple has been ordered to pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison's patent licensing arm over $234 million in damages by a US jury.

Original article 14/10/2015:

There are probably a number of long faces over at Apple’s legal department today.

Apple is facing a huge payment order of anywhere up to $862 million after it was found to be using a processor patent without permission.

A US jury decided that the Cupertino-based technology was breaching a patent held by the University of Wisconsin’s licensing arm – WARF, or Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The patent, which improves the efficiency of processors, described technology used in Apple’s A7, A8, and A8X chipsets.

Those particular chips feature in a number of Apple devices, including the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the iPad Air 2.

Apple originally denied that it had infringed the patent, arguing that the patent was invalid, as reported by Reuters.

US District Judge William Conley, who is presiding over the case, has suggested that Apple could be forced to pay anything up to $862.4 million as damages.

WARF previously sued Intel using the patent back in 2008, but the case was ultimately settled.

The research foundation has already filed a second lawsuit against Apple, this time targeting its new A9 and A9X chips, which feature in the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, and the iPad Pro.

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The patent specifically relates to data dependence prediction, which affects the way a processor executes instructions.

A Reddit post by /u/SGwithADD explains it well:

“In a nutshell, when a processor executes instructions, it requires some data to operate on, which will be generated by prior instructions. Therefore, it has to wait on these prior instructions to complete.”

It continues: “This can be difficult to identify, thanks to load instructions and others, where the dependency cannot be figured out until the data is retrieved from cache/memory – which can take a while.”

The patent describes a technology that offers a smarter way of predicting when these dependencies exist.

This lets the processor execute the instructions out of order more aggressively, as well as avoiding mistakes in speculation.

Do you think Apple should pay such a huge sum in damages? Let us know in the comments.

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October 14, 2015, 11:37 am

Based on Apple's treatment of Samsung and the amount of cash they are demanding per device for insignificant features, they absolutely should be clobbered for a similar amount per device...


October 14, 2015, 12:43 pm

"Apple originally denied that it had infringed the patent, arguing that the patent was invalid" - So they didn't deny they had infringed it. They denied it was a patent. That's important because...

"There are probably a number of long faces over at Apple’s legal department" - ...this probably isn't true. They will have known it was a risky move.


October 14, 2015, 1:17 pm

Great news, it is about time that reality caught up with Apple especially after the idiocy of the legal case with Samsung.

Darrin Rhone

October 14, 2015, 1:57 pm

Before I say this, I must state I hate Apple.... Overpriced hardware shit made in third world countries and charged at 600% mark up price. 862 million is peanuts for Apple considering they are worth 700 billion.....

Pete Nicholson

October 15, 2015, 10:39 am

Why? Samsung copied the entire look and feel of the iPhone with the Galaxy. Apple has infringed a patent on one part of the microprocessor.


October 15, 2015, 12:08 pm

I'm not talking about that especially, more that the damages awarded were (excessively) apportioned to *specific* features.

So, tens of millions of dollars for the slide-to-unlock patent despite that being a tiny part of the overall software, which is a tiny part (patent wise) of the overall smartphone, meaning that the overall per-patent cost per device was extremely excessive...

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