On August 1st, a jury verdict entered in the Southern District of California awarded $145.1 million in reasonable royalty damages to Canadian IP licensing firm Wi-LAN in a patent infringement case against Cupertino, CA-based consumer device giant Apple Inc. The jury determined that Apple infringed upon claims of two patents owned by Wi-LAN:
- U.S. Patent No. 8457145, titled Method and Apparatus for Bandwidth Request/Grant Protocols in a Wireless Communication System. Issued to Wi-LAN in June 2013, it covers a method for requesting bandwidth in a wireless communication system including a plurality of subscriber units in communication with an associated base unit in a way that efficiently processes and responds to bandwidth allocation requests.
- U.S. Patent No. 8537757, titled Adaptive Call Admission Control for Use in a Wireless Communication System. Issued to Wi-LAN in September 2013, it claims a subscriber station for a wireless communication system configured to control the admission of new connections and the suspension of existing connections between a base station and customer premise equipments.
Though this is not the only lawsuit fought out between Wi-LAN and Apple, this particular action began in June 2014 when Apple filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment of invalidity on the ‘145 and ‘757 patents along with three other Wi-LAN patents. Apple’s complaint notes that Wi-LAN “has been solely in the business of acquiring and asserting patents,” an obvious ploy to try to paint Wi-LAN as a patent assertion entity (PAE) and, by extension, a troll. That argument is a poison pill which has been swallowed by disreputable publications such as Fortune (not the first time that particular magazine has engaged in making such derogatory and false statements in order to inflame its reading public). Of course, as anyone who is interested in performing about two seconds worth of research will see with their own eyes, Wi-LAN has acquired the patents infringed by Apple through its own research and development and not, as Apple would have people believe, through an acquisition campaign which is typical of PAEs.
In October 2014, after Apple filed a second amended complaint in the case, Wi-LAN filed a counterclaim answering Apple’s claims of non-infringement and invalidity; it also asserted the five patents against Apple in the filing. Wi-LAN alleged that Apple’s sale of iPhones and other devices that are 4G LTE-compliant infringed upon the patents-in-suit. “Apple’s infringement gives Apple an unfair advantage over its competitors, all of whom have chosen to do the right thing and license their use of Wi-LAN’s wireless technologies and patents,” Wi-LAN’s counterclaim reads. Wi-LAN noted that its asserted patents were developed by a team led by Ken Stanwood, CEO of Wi-LAN’s wholly-owned subsidiary Cygnus Broadband. At the time of Wi-LAN’s counterclaim, Stanwood had been awarded 87 U.S. patents and had more than 100 patent applications pending at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Stanwood’s work helped Wi-LAN to become the world’s first company to build Wi-Fi and 4G data speeds into mobile devices about a decade before 4G became standard in the wireless industry.
Wi-LAN’s counterclaims also detail early discussions with Apple which ended up breaking down, a story which is familiar with many innovators who have been taken advantage of by the efficient infringement cabal. Wi-LAN engaged Apple in discussion years prior to Apple’s introduction of its own 4G LTE devices to show Apple a blueprint detailing how Wi-LAN’s wireless technologies would enable computers and mobile devices to stream video and connect to the Internet. “Apple arrogantly dismissed Wi-LAN’s wireless technologies and vision at the time, believing that if it was not invented by Apple it was not possible,” Wi-LAN’s counterclaim reads. However, Apple incorporated Wi-LAN’s technologies into its devices, a fact which is borne out by the jury verdict in this case. Wi-LAN alleged that it had attempted to engage Apple in licensing discussions for a year prior to Apple filing for declaratory judgment.
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