The university’s licensing arm – Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) – filed a patent in 1998 for technology which is said to improve the power efficiency of microchips. It is the alleged breach of this patent that led WARF to sue Apple in January 2014.
In court papers, the university claimed Apple had ignored its offers to license the patent, which would mean paying a fee for its continued use. Therefore, the university said, Apple was wilfully infringing the patent.
WARF said: “The inventors are leading researchers in the field of computer microprocessor architecture. Their work at the University of Wisconsin, particularly the work for which they were awarded the patent-in-suit, significantly improved the efficiency and performance of contemporary computer processors.”
The jury in the trial were asked to consider whether the Apple A7, A8 and A8X processors – found in the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as several versions of the iPad – violated this patent.
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Apple denied any infringement, and argued that the patent was invalid. The company previously attempted to convince the US Patent and Trademark Office to review the validity of the disputed patent – but its request was rejected in April.
While the damages in the case have yet to be determined, judge William Conley has ruled that Apple could be liable for a payout to WARF as high as $862m (£557.5 m).
WARF previously sued Intel in 2008 over the same dispute, but the case was settled in 2009 – the day before the trial was due.
The university is also pursuing a second lawsuit against Apple, launched in September, which targets the company’s newest chips – the A9 and A9X – present in the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and iPad Pro.
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