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Report: Apple Wins Appeal of $234M Ruling in Patent Dispute with WARF

Apple has persuaded a federal appeals court to toss out a 2015 ruling that ordered the company to pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s technology transfer office $234 million for infringing a computer processing technology patent held by the organization, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. ruled in a 3-0 decision that “no reasonable juror could have found literal infringement” based on evidence presented during the liability phase of the 2015 trial, according to the report.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which manages patents and the licensing of intellectual property for UW-Madison, sued Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in 2014. WARF claimed the California-based company had violated a patent the foundation was granted in 1998. In October 2015, a federal jury determined the patent in question was valid, and awarded WARF $234 million in damages.

In June 2017, U.S. District Judge William Conley denied Apple’s bid to reverse the jury’s findings from 2015. The following month, Conley more than doubled the size of the award, to $506 million. The reason for increasing the award was because Apple did not stop infringing WARF’s patent after the 2015 ruling; Apple continued to violate the patent until it expired in December 2016, according to court documents.

According to a report by The Verge, a technology news outlet, the additional $272 million Conley awarded to Apple last year “will presumably be thrown out now that the underlying judgment has been reversed.”

A spokesperson for WARF said only that the organization is reviewing the appeals court’s decision.

The patent that WARF claims Apple infringed relates to technology that Apple incorporated into microprocessors that power some older iPhones and iPads. The technology improves battery life and the efficiency of processors by having them execute commands out of order. The technology that led to the patent was developed by a UW-Madison computer sciences professor and three graduate students.

In a brief filed with the appeals court last October, lawyers for Apple once again requested the judgment be reversed. They argued that WARF “relied on legally impermissible evidence that prejudicially inflated” the amount the jury ordered Apple to pay WARF in the 2015 ruling.

In September 2015, WARF filed a separate lawsuit against Apple over chips it uses in the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPad Pro. Those models had not yet become commercially available when WARF first sued Apple the previous year. Conley has said he would not make a ruling on the newer case until Apple has completed the appeals process for the 2014 suit.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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