Apple has been ordered to pay $506 million to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) in a patent dispute. The case involved US Patent #5,781,752. This patent, referred to as the “752 patent”, covers a predictor circuit that uses table entries to synchronize processor instructions. The case specifically targets Apple’s A7, A8, and A8X processors as infringing products.
Apple had already been found liable for patent infringement in October of 2015, but the full judgment had not been made until now. Initially, the jury determined that WARF should be awarded $234,227,669 in damages. District Judge William M. Conley increased that amount, based on “supplemental damages at the rate of $1.61 per infringing unit for accused processors sold through the initial entry of judgment on October 26, 2015;”, “ongoing royalties at the rate of $2.74 per infringing unit for accused processors from October 27, 2015, through expiration of the ‘752 patent on December 26, 2016;”, “prejudgment interest calculated at the prime rate compounded quarterly through the initial October 26, 2015, judgment;”, “costs as taxed on June 6, 2017;”, and “post-judgment interest at the statutory rate of 0.232% compounded annually through June 30, 2017.”
The 752 patent describes a circuit to improve the way the processor handles branch predicting, a way of improving performance by predicting which way a programming branch, such as an if-then-else statement, will execute. It describes using a table of values to determine if there was an error in execution, which can then take steps to mitigate issues caused by operations on the same data.
WARF is an organization operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the purpose of enforcing patent rights. While Apple is their most high profile case to date, they have also sued other semiconductor companies, including Intel and AMD in the past. During the trial, Apple had argued that the entire 752 patent was invalid and that the case should be dismissed, but this was not accepted by the jury. The case was limited to three processors that were found in the iPhone 5S, iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPhone 6 (Plus), the sixth-generation iPod Touch, fourth-generation Apple TV, and iPad Air 2.
The 752 patent has expired as of December 2016. It is likely that Apple will appeal both the verdict as well as the judgment against them.