Apple faces patent infringement damages as high as $862 million after a jury ruled Tuesday that several of the company's mobile processors infringed a patent held by the licensing arm of the University of Wisconsin.
The patent, awarded in 1998, describes a method to improve the efficiency of computer processors. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which supports research at the university by "protecting its discoveries and licensing them to commercial partners," sued Apple in January 2014 over the alleged infringement. WARF argued that Apple's A7, A8, and A8X mobile processors, found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, infringed upon the patent.
The patent, which was first applied for in 1996, is described in the filing as a "table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer." Basically, the patent describes a technique in which a processor—here, Apple's mobile processors—take a stab at what task it should carry out next before it's actually requested to do so. This helps reduce the amount of time the processor has to wait around doing nothing. WARF claims Apple "has been aware" of the patent, and is infringing on it because the company continues to sell products that have "components that embody a material part of the inventions described" in the patent.
Apple denied infringing the patent, and had requested a review of its validity by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The request was denied in April.
WARF in 2008 sued Intel for allegedly infringing the patent, with the two parties settling before it went to trial in 2009.
Both Apple and WARF declined to comment on the matter when asked by Motherboard.