The California Institute of Technology has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Broadcom and Apple (and Avago Technologies owned by Broadcom). The patent infringement lawsuit concerns Apple's iPhones beginning with the iPhone 5, the iPad, MacBook Air, Apple Watch and more. Apple's use of Broadcom's technology is using IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders invented by the California Institute of Technology. In this lawsuit, Apple is drawn in by virtue of using Broadcom Wi-Fi products. This week AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule were pulled from U.S. Apple Stores. Whether this is due to next-gen versions of these product arriving next month or complications related to this lawsuit is unknown at this time.
Apple and Broadcom are allegedly infringing upon four patents owned by the California Institute of Technology regarding IRA/LDPC encoders and decoders related to Wi-Fi standards. The Asserted Patents disclose a seminal improvement to coding systems and methods. The Asserted Patents introduce a new type of error correction codes, called "irregular repeat and accumulate codes" (or "IRA codes").
One of the key improvements to the 802.11n version of the standard involved a "High Throughput (HT)" mode that is implemented using a specific type of LDPC (Low-Density Parity Check) code. This LDPC code used in 802.11n implements Caltech's patented IRA code technology.
This key improvement to the 802.11n version of the standard was also incorporated into the subsequent 802.11ac version of the standard. The 802.11ac version describes a "Very High Throughput (VHT)" mode that implements Caltech's patented IRA code technology.
The High Throughput and Very High Throughput modes provide significant advantages over earlier versions of the 802.11 standard. These modes allow for faster data transmissions while at the same time reducing the complexity of the encoders and decoders required to process the IRA/LDPC signals.
The IRA/LDPC codes specified by the 802.11n and 802.11ac standards include (1) irregular repeat, and (2) an accumulate operations, meaning they are IRA codes.
Broadcom / Apple
The formal complaint states in-part that "Broadcom manufactures, uses, imports, offers for sale, and/or sells Wi-Fi products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents. Broadcom products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents include, but are not limited to, the Wi-Fi products listed in Appendix 1 ("Broadcom Accused Products").
Broadcom's sales and marketing materials confirm that these products use LDPC codes and are compliant with the 802.11n and/or 802.11ac standards. For example, Broadcom's materials state that its BCM4350 '5G WiFi 802.11ac Client,' which upon information and belief is incorporated in the Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, features '802.11ac-compliant . . . low-density parity check codes (LDPC).'"
The formal complaint's mention of Apple states in-part that "Apple manufactures, uses, imports, offers for sale, and/or sells Wi-Fi products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents. Apple products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents include, but are not limited to, the following: iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5, iPad Air, IPad Air 2, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 4, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 2, MacBook Air, Apple Watch" and other products.
Apple has manufactured, used, imported, offered for sale, and/or sold products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and/or decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents since approximately 2012. For example, Apple announced the release of the iPhone 5 in September 2012 in a press release titled: "Thinnest, Lightest iPhone Ever Features All-New Aluminum Design, Stunning 4-Inch Retina Display, A6 Chip & Ultrafast Wireless." On information and belief, the iPhone 5 incorporates a Broadcom BCM 4334 chip that is compliant with 802.11n and uses IRA/LDPC codes.
Apple is one of Broadcom's largest customers. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, sales to Apple represented 14.6%, 13.3% and 14.0% of Broadcom Corp.'s net revenue, respectively. (Broadcom Corporation 2014 Form 10-K). During this timeframe, Broadcom's Wi-Fi products that incorporate IRA/LDPC encoders and decoders and infringe the Asserted Patents were incorporated into Apple's key products including iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. On information and belief, sales from these Apple products generated hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue."
The patent infringement case presented in today's report was filed in the California Central District Court on May 26, 2016. The Presiding Judge in this case is noted as being Judge George H. Wu and referred to Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth.
As a non-related side note, the timing of lawsuit happened to coincide with an interesting new report published this week by Bloomberg titled "Billions at Stake in University Patent Fights." One of the cases that were noted in that report covered Apple's initial loss to the University of Wisconsin for their A7 processor used in iPhones.
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