The US District Court for the Central District of California this week ruled that Broadcom’s W-Fi chips used by Apple infringe on patents helds by the California Institute of Technology, and further ruling that the companies must pay Caltech roughly $1.1 billion for damages. Apple and Broadcom plan to appeal.

The patents in question cover Irregular Repeat Accumulate (IRA) codes, an error-correcting code (ECC) technology that allows data to be reconstructed if some bits are scrambled during transmission. Researchers from Caltech published a paper describing IRA codes back in 2000 and then filed multiple patent applications. IRA codes were eventually adopted by 802.11n (introduced in 2009), 802.11ac (de-facto launched in 2013), and digital satellite transmission technologies.

Caltech tried to license its patents to various parties for years, but then the institute filed a lawsuit against Hughes Communications and Dish Network in 2015, and against Broadcom in 2016 (eventually adding Apple as a defendant). Dish Network and Hughes settled the dispute with CalTech in 2016, but Apple and Broadcom asserted that since IRA codes were an extension of previously published ECC-related papers, Caltech’s patents in question were invalid and should not have been granted. Over the lifetime of the dispute, patent judges, the US Court of Appeals, and now a federal jury sided with Caltech.

Apple has used Broadcom’s violating Wi-Fi chips in hundreds of millions of devices, including iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks, since 2012. As a result, it was ordered to pay Caltech $837 million, or $1.40 per device, according to Engadget. Meanwhile, Broadcom was ordered to pay $270 million.

Apple, which called itself “merely an indirect downstream party,” told Reuters that it planned to appeal the decision. Broadcom plans to do the same. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Caltech plans to file lawsuits against other manufacturers of equipment that features technologies which use IRA codes.

The statement by Caltech reads:

“We are pleased the jury found that Apple and Broadcom infringed Caltech patents. As a non-profit institution of higher education, Caltech is committed to protecting its intellectual property in furtherance of its mission to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education.”

Related Reading:

Sources: Ars Technica, Reuters, Engadget, Court Listener

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • PeachNCream - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    I would hate to own a phone that has 95,109 unread e-mails waiting for me. Yikes!

    With regards to the lawsuit - Eh, whatever. Appeal is pending so nothing has really changed just yet.
  • Makaveli - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    I've seen worse know a few lawyers.
  • Samus - Sunday, February 2, 2020 - link

  • PeachNCream - Monday, February 3, 2020 - link

    Is that just a lawyer thing? I would think approaching 100K in unread e-mail traffic would be an indicator of some pretty terrible spam filtering, a VERY broken mail server, or years of inbox laziness and neglect. If that's the latter, then I certainly would not want to retain a lawyer that is so irresponsible.
  • dalanamurr - Thursday, January 13, 2022 - link

    I think that the leadership of the university did the right thing by starting to defend their rights. Nobody e would like to share their creations with other people. I studied at this university and did great because I often used with essay samples for college students when I had problems with my homework. Now I work for a prestigious company and also create many new products. And I consider it important to patent my inventions so that people know their creator.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    Patent law in the US doesn't make sense.

    How can they sue the end-user of a product (Apple), when the manufacturer of said product (Broadcom) is following a published standard (802.11n / 802.11ac)? Shouldn't they only be able to sue the people behind the standard, as it's the standard that is infringing the patent? And isn't there something about standards-essential patents being required to offer FRAND licensing fees to everyone?
  • nevcairiel - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    Practically all tech is patented to some degree, which means that standards are based on patents, and if you want to implement them, you have to pay for that. The article does not mention what conditions were offered, but it does say that Apple and Broadcom refused to pay at all because they do not recognize the validity of the patent - no matter if they were offered FRAND terms or not.
  • JHBoricua - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    Not only that, but apparently the expert witness Broadcom and Apple used in the trial was not only had to correct his testimony but also struggle to explain the mistakes, weakening Broadcom's defense.

    Also from theRegister site:

    "The case itself was notable for the peculiar deposition of a key figure: Broadcom engineer Alvin Lin, who was chief architect of most of the technology in dispute. Lin didn't testify, a move that led Caltech to accuse Broadcom of "hiding him away," which the chip designer denied.

    The deposition, shown to the jury, revealed Lin seemed to be confused when asked if he understood where he was, and then where he got his master's degree from. I don't understand the question, he told baffled questioners. When he was then asked if he knew what a low-density parity check was – i.e. the tech he has written source code for and which is included in Broadcom's chipsets – he said he didn't."
  • Santoval - Saturday, February 1, 2020 - link

    If this guy is so .. eloquent in depositions it is no wonder Broadcom hid him away. Who knows how much worse he would have made their case if he testified in trial..
  • EliteRetard - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    FRAND doesn't mean free.

    At $1.40 per device they are asking for under 0.2%.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now