Bits Pilani Alumni Win Patent Infringement Case Worth $862.4 Million Against Apple
This case proves two facts: When it comes to technology, then David vs Goliath can be a fair fight; and American justice system does work.
In a landmark judgment, US Jury has ruled that Apple has illegally and unethically used a technology, which was created by four researchers, two of them being India-born Bits Pilani students. As per the Jury’s decision, Apple is now liable to pay $862.4 million in damages.
The legal and patented right of this technology resides with University of Wisconsin-Madison’s licensing arm.
In 1998, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) had filed a patent for a paper titled: “Table based Data Speculation Circuit for Parallel Processing Computer,” and had received patent # 5781752, also called the ‘752 patent’.
As per documents filed by WARF, they use the revenues from patents to help their alumni’s research works.
It was recently found that chips used in Apple iPhone 5S, 6, recently launched 6S and some models of iPad Pro had used this particular technology from 752 patent, without any attribution or monetary compensation. This patented technology was used in 3 chips, namely: A7, A8 and A8X, which are being used in the above mentioned phone/tablet models by Apple, in order to improve processing power.
The Indian Connection
As per court documents filed by WARF, 752 patent was issued to Andreas Moshovos, Scott Breach, Terani Vijaykumar, and Gurindar Sohi in 1998 as a result of their “labour and ingenuity”.
Gurindar Sohi served at Department Chair of Computer Science Department in University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee between 2004 & 2008 and is currently working as a Professor. He has been a faculty member at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee since 1985, when he migrated to US from India for research work.
He was the leader of the team, which developed this patented technology.
T N Vijaykumar, who was also part of this team, is working as Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University right now.
Both of them are Electrical and Electronics engineering graduates of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, having passed out in early 1980s.
In their papers, WRF said, “This work has been recognized as a major milestone in the field of computer architecture and design. Indeed, Dr. (Gurindar) Sohi, as leader of the lab that developed the 752 patent, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering based on his work in the field of computer architecture,”
The trial is still on, as the US District Judge William Conley, who is presiding over this case, has divided the trial into three stages: Liability, Damages and Willful theft of technology, which, if proved, can severely increase the payout.
Interestingly, WARF had filed a similar case against Intel in 2008, using the same patent 752; when it was found that Intel’s Core 2 Duo CPU was using the same patented technology. The case was settled out of the court, for an undisclosed amount.