WARF Whomps Apple: Jury Finds Tech Giant Infringed Chip Efficiency Patent
Oct. 15, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — The Western District of Wisconsin is an interesting place to try patent cases. For one, it is one of the fastest dockets in the country, with times to trial that can be half-those of other common patent venues. Additionally, while the judges are not afraid to toss cases on summary judgment, the cases that actually end up going to juries can come back with some outsized verdicts. One company that likely has had its fill of Wisconsin’s jury pool is Apple, as a jury in a case filed against the company by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund (WARF) returned a verdict finding Apple to have infringed on WARF’s ‘752 patent. WARF is an active patent assertion entity, with a strong track record of recovery through licensing and lawsuits. The patent successfully asserted at trial against Apple is an oldie, and nearing expiration, but is proving to be a big pain for Apple — which now has to deal with the negative publicity of an infringement finding, while still facing additional legal battles.
Interestingly, the reporting on the decision has seized on the potential for WARF to recover over $850mm from Apple, with the better articles noting that the next phase of the case will have the jury actually set the damages figure. Furthermore, the third phase of the case will focus on whether Apple’s infringement is willful, and if so, whether enhanced damages are appropriate. As is typical, those verdicts will all be challenged by the losing party in post-trial briefing, and the case (absent settlement) will ultimately be appealed to the Federal Circuit. Meaning there is a likelihood we are still talking about this case through the end of 2016 or longer.
WARF had previously asserted this patent against Intel, and secured a mega-bucks (in the patent world) $100mm+ settlement in that case. The case that went to trial against Apple covers prior-generation chips, and WARF filed a new complaint against Apple’s current generation chips at the end of last month. Apple tried to kill the patent with an IPR filing, but lost on the merits in front of the PTAB. Considering Apple’s cash position, there is an argument that even if WARF won maximum damages and enhanced damages, this case is ultimately non-material to Apple. That may or not be true, but for now at least, the word on the street is that Apple is an infringer, perhaps weakening Apple’s carefully (and expensively – see Apple v. Samsung) cultivated image as an innovator. For WARF’s part, this case will only serve to increase the fear in future targets for when WARF comes knocking and asking for a license — irrespective of how much WARF ultimately recovers in this particular case. WARF’s success to date with this patent is proof once again that when it comes to patents — the underlying asset is the key consideration.
Disclosures and Disclaimers:
Nothing in this material is intended to constitute legal or investment advice of any kind, nor is any of this material based on any non-public information of any kind. In addition to my work at Markman Advisors, I am also a name partner at a NYC-based intellectual property litigation boutique firm, Kroub Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC (www.kskiplaw.com). Markman Advisors is affiliated with a Houston-based investment management firm, Perdix Capital Management, which may have existing or potential positions relating to situations discussed in this material. Markman Advisors also provides consulting services to buy-side investors, including hedge funds and family offices, that may also have or enter into positions relating to situations discussed in this material. Questions or comments can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All suggestions are welcome.