back to article Caltech takes billion-dollar bite out of Apple, Broadcom for using its patented Wi-Fi tech without paying a penny

Apple and Broadcom have been told to pay the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) a beefy billion bucks for ripping off three of the US university's Wi-Fi patents. A federal jury in Cali decided on Wednesday that technology described in the data signal encoding patents owned by Caltech is used in millions of iPhones …

  1. Robert Grant

    The jury took just under five hours to decide its $1.1bn patent-infringement prize

    We should get them in to decide Oracle vs Google. But only if they don't pick Oracle, of course.

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: The jury took just under five hours to decide its $1.1bn patent-infringement prize

      But that's a bit like being asked if you want your scrotum cheese grating or mincing...

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: scrotum cheese grating

        For want of a well-placed hypohen, I initially misread that as applying a grater to one's scrotum cheese.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: scrotum cheese grating

          Oh smeg.

  2. Zola

    5... 4... 3... 2.. 1...

    Until the inevitable Apple appeal. They can afford to keep this going and avoid paying out for a few more years yet.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: 5... 4... 3... 2.. 1...

      Until the inevitable Apple appeal.

      Which they will probably win due to the theory of patent exhaustion - in other words, they bought stuff in good faith from Broadcom and thus BroadCom itself should be liable for the entire sum since they are the ones who were the patent licensees (or should have been).

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: 5... 4... 3... 2.. 1...

        Yeah, that whole part seems weird to me. I'm no lawyer, but the idea that I could be sued merely for having bought a commercially available product sounds utterly insane. I have also bought things from companies at various times; I'm pretty sure that doesn't make me liable for any infringements that may have occurred during their production.

        1. Snowy Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: 5... 4... 3... 2.. 1...

          Yes in the same way people who purchased one of Apples various iThings are not liable for infringements that may have occurred during their production.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: 5... 4... 3... 2.. 1...

          Depends. Is it an off-the-shelf Broadcom part or is it a custom part designed and built in partnership with Apple and only used in Apple products?

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Asked if he knew what a low-density parity check was

    Is that bad coaching from the lawyers? I read Lin's answer as "found it and used it." An old rambling story about protocols would have been what the defense needed.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Take note Apple....

    ...this is what a legitimate patent looks like.

    Just sayin'.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Take note Apple....

      It is Broadcomm who are the initial infringers. They made the chips that contain the 'illegal' stuff and sold them to Apple and a host of others.

      I see Apple at fault for not getting indemnification from Broadcomm that there were no 'illegal' stuff in the things that they were buying.

      That said, I hope that they all pay up and in return, the University waves fees for all engineering students to help MAGA. They won't of course. Their lawyers need to put their snouts in the trough first.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Take note Apple....

        FYI in this context the word is "waives", to be pedantic (my favourite hobby)

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. John70

    Patents

    Infringing on patents for a decade?

    Why didn't Caltech do something back then? Did they delibrately wait until they could get a big pay day?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patents

      Could be, but could also be that it takes a while.

      First you have to notice that there is a product that may be infringing. then you tell the companies. They come back after a while and say, screw you, we don't, prove it.

      You now go away and try to prove that they are. So you have to take apart their products and find out if they are. Takes time.

      Then you go back and say here, you are. They come back a year or 2 later saying, screw you, take us to court.

      You then talk to your lawyers and then start compiling all the info that you need and submit your claim to the court. Takes more time.

      Court comes back with a date and may ask if you can try to do a settlement out of court. Negotiations may happen, one side wants it all, the other side says, screw you, its not worth that, we will pay 1% of that. More time passes.

      New court date. in 2 years.

      10 years have now past.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Patents

      "Did they deliberately wait until they could get a big pay day?"

      Would that be wrong? And all that a patent does anyway is to let you sue.

      1. GBE

        Re: Patents

        "Did they deliberately wait until they could get a big pay day?"

        Would that be wrong?

        It depends on what you mean by "wrong".

        Waiting like that can result in estoppel:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estoppel

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acquiescence

        The result is basically that if you decided not to object now, you can't object later.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Mmmmm

    Tasty billion dollar slice of Apple pie!

  8. Steve Todd

    If it’s part of the WiFi standard then it should be covered by FRAND terms

    $1bn doesn’t sound like FRAND to me. How exactly did this get to be part of the standard without the licensing being well known and easy to obtain?

    1. Nick Stallman

      Re: If it’s part of the WiFi standard then it should be covered by FRAND terms

      $1b sounds a lot more FRAND than $0.

      Since they got caught paying $0 that doesn't mean they get the FRAND rates for all their past infringement. Otherwise no one would bother paying at all until they got caught and sued.

  9. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    ... asked if he understood where he was, and then where he got his master's degree from.

    I don't understand the question ...

    ... asked if he knew what a low-density parity check was ...

    ... he said he didn't.

    Unbelievable.

    Just what was going on in that courtroom?

    It would seem that Mr. Lin was not fit to serve as a witness or sign a deposition to be filed on his behalf.

    O.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Facepalm

      With answers like that...

      I'd question his ability to tie his shoe laces... Is

      $1+ billlllion now such a triffeling amount that they couldn't even be bothered to prepare their witness correctly or at least have him excused on possible medical grounds for suffering dementia/alzheimers or some such as the responses around akin to early on set of either.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Caltech has a history of playing fast and lose with the rules RE: WiFi themselves

    A few years back they started jamming other peoples WiFi access points. At fist they claimed they had the right to block students from connecting their own APs to the schools network. Then the students pointed out that they were jamming access points that weren't connected to their network (and interfering with their coursework and reasearch). Management then claimed, tough, you all agreed to be students, so you have to do what we say, at which point they pointed out they are also blocking access points that were not student operated, or even affiliated with the school.

    When one of my clients told me about this, I quietly suggested the WiFi bands are mostly in public spectrum, and intentionally generating interference is prohibited. I also pointed out the part that is not public is in the HAM radio band, and if he should show up the old TRW swapmeet he might recruit a bunch of grouchy old men with two specific hobbies, knowing the broadcast rules chapter and verse and to gripe at the FCC, who's favorite terms are "are not allowed to cause interference" and "must accept any interference that they receive."

    Several grouchy HAMs then lodged a formal protest with the school, the FCC, and probably the better business bureau, Yelp, and the mayors office, leading to much inconvenience.

    1. Stuart Castle

      Re: Caltech has a history of playing fast and lose with the rules RE: WiFi themselves

      Thankfully, the rules in the UK are, at least to my unexperienced eye, a little clearer. My understanding of the rules imposed by Ofcom is you can block pretty much what frequencies you want as long on your own property as you can guarantee that any signals you broadcast will not leave your property.

      Of course, that is difficult with radio in practice.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How were the research funded?

    Seems to me that if the research behind these patents had been paid for with public funds (military/government/etc dollars) that CalTech has no claim to the results.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: How were the research funded?

      That would depend on the employment contracts of the inventors. I think most universities these days encourage researchers to patent stuff and the legal arrangements make it profitable for all concerned. Otherwise, you just lose your top researchers to universities (or countries) that do.

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