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Apple must pay $837 million for infringing Wi-Fi patents from Caltech, jury decides

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Broadcom is being asked to pay $270 million as well

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Nearly four years after the California Institute of Technology sued Apple and Broadcom for allegedly infringing four of the university’s patents on Wi-Fi data transmission, a federal jury has agreed that the two companies infringed — and has awarded $1.1 billion in damages to Caltech for the infringement, Law360 reports.

Reporting from the courtroom today, Law360 writes that the jury ordered Apple to pay $837 million, with Broadcom owing $270 million. That seems to be based on Caltech’s hypothetical estimate of what it might have been able to negotiate in royalties back in 2010 — if Broadcom and Apple had actually struck a deal with Caltech before they put Broadcom’s Wi-Fi chips into new Apple devices.

Caltech figured that Apple would owe about $1.40 per device, and Broadcom would owe 26 cents each, to license its patents for the 802.11n and 801.11ac Wi-Fi chips.

Apparently, Caltech’s inventor wasn’t originally thinking of using the data transmission patents for Wi-Fi specifically, according to this passage in the story:

Apple and Broadcom’s lawyer Joseph J. Mueller of WilmerHale pointed out that the patents had only been licensed once, and that their co-inventor, Hui Jin, testified he had never considered using the patents for Wi-Fi until he heard Broadcom and Apple might be infringing them.

Earlier in the case, Apple also argued that it was merely using off-the-shelf Wi-Fi chips from Broadcom, instead of building any infringing tech itself, and shouldn’t be sued for that.

A juror who spoke to Law360 said that such arguments, among others, didn’t really play into the verdict, though — the jury simply agreed that Broadcom’s tech, as sold to Apple, seemed to infringe on the patents. It’ll be interesting to see if Caltech tries to sue other gadget manufacturers that used the same tech.

Probably coincidentally, Apple and Broadcom just announced a $15 billion deal last week to supply Apple with more wireless chips for the next three and a half years.

Apple confirmed to The Verge that it plans to appeal, but declined to comment further.