Technology company Apple may be facing a $832 million fine, after a Wisconsin court found them guilty of infringing a patent by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UM). The patent, governs an innovation that improves efficiency of dual-core processors, and was based on work led by Gurindar Sohi, an Indian-American computer-science professor at the University of Wisconsin.
Court papers filed by the University single out Sohi's contributions as saying:"This work has been recognized as a major milestone in the field of computer architecture and design. Indeed, Dr 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."
This new design, the UM legal team claims, is at the heart of the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus and the court battle has been on since last year. The same patent was also at the heart of an earlier dispute that the university had with Intel, but, which was successfully settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Sohi is an alumni of the BITS-Pilani and John P. Morgridge Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He got his Ph.D in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois, and has been a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1985.
According to the BBC, the university claimed in court papers that Apple ignored its offers to license the patent, which would mean paying a fee for its continued use. Therefore the university said Apple was wilfully infringing the patent, something which, if the court agrees, could carry a heavier fine. The precise amount Apple may have to pay will be decided at a later stage in the court proceedings.
The IP in question, U.S. Patent No. 5,781,752 for a "Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer," was granted to a University of Wisconsin team led by Sohi in 1998. According to the original patent claims, the '752 patent focuses on improving power efficiency and overall performance in modern computer processor designs by utilizing "data speculation" circuit, also known as a branch predictor.
A detailed history of the case can be found in Apple Insider, a popular tech blog. It says that Apple introduced its dual-core, ARM-based A7 chip with iPhone 5s in 2013 as the world's first consumer ready 64-bit mobile processor. The chip also included an embedded secure enclave that stores operational data for iPhone 5s and iPad mini 3 Touch ID fingerprint systems.
Sohi said in email that he was unable to comment on these developments.
The story has been updated to reflect Sohi's comments