State School Triumphs in Legal Victory Against Tech Giant Apple

How a multimillion dollar patent lawsuit could help the University of Wisconsin fund important research for years to come.

image via (cc) flickr user wackybadger

Odds are you’ve never heard of the University of Wisconsin’s “Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation,” or WARF as it’s more commonly known. If you’re an Apple user, however, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve been using relying on a piece of WARF technology for a while now.

That, at least, is what a court ruled this week, after finding Apple Inc has violated U.S. patent 5,781,752. The ’752 patent, filed by WARF in 1998, is for a “table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer” which, explains Techcrunch, helps make computer processors more efficient—Processors like Apple’s A7, A8, and A8x chips, which are found in most late-model iPhones and iPads. By not securing permission to use the technology patented by WARF in their A-series chips, Apple is now liable for damages up to $862 million dollars, but for which WARF is reportedly only seeking $400 million.

Here’s the original complaint, filed by WARF in January, 2015:

WARF v. Apple by Jordan Crook

While $400 million may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to Apple’s estimated worth of nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars, it would represent a major increase in the average annual intake WARF sees from its various patent holdings. As The Washington Post points out, the organization has given contributions to its parent institution, the University of Wisconsin, averaging around $18 million dollars annually since its founding in 1925. WARF’s website claims it manages an endowment made up of “licensing and investment revenues” that totals over $2.5 billion dollars. Through its research partnership with the University of Wisconsin, WARF has been involved in the creation and patenting of the blood thinner warfarin, and advances in applied usage of Vitamin D, and continues to re-invest its funds into further research opportunities. As the Post notes, WARF is among the top university-based intellectual property holders in the country, with this year’s donation to UW—over $70 million dollars—representing 2.5 percent of the university’s total annual budget.

This isn’t WARF’s first time applying legal pressure on a tech giant, either. In 2009, the University of Wisconsin and Intel settled out of court after the school brought a similar lawsuit alleging the Santa Clara based company had similarly infringed on the ‘752 patent, reports Reuters.

[via techcrunch, reuters, the washington post]


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