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Apple, Broadcom must pay CalTech $1.1B for patent infringement

A jury handed down the decision related to Wi-Fi chips used in iPhones, Macs and other devices.

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Apple and component supplier Broadcom lost a patent lawsuit.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A jury on Wednesday ordered Apple and component supplier Broadcom to pay the California Institute of Technology $1.1 billion for infringing the university's patents.

The technology relates to Wi-Fi chips Apple used in its iPhones, iPads, Macs and other devices from 2010 to 2017. Apple in court filings has argued that it shouldn't have been involved in the lawsuit -- which was filed in 2016 -- because it's using off-the-shelf Broadcom chips, like many other handset makers.

"Caltech's claims against Apple are based solely on the incorporation of allegedly infringing Broadcom chips in Apple's iPhone, Mac, and other devices that support 802.11n or 802.11ac," Apple argued. "Broadcom manufactures the accused chips, while Apple is merely an indirect downstream party whose products incorporate the accused chips."

Still, a jury disagreed and ruled that Apple must pay Caltech $837.8 million, and Broadcom must pay $270.2 million, according to Reuters

Apple didn't have a comment on Wednesday beyond saying it plans to appeal the ruling. Broadcom said in a statement that "we disagree with the factual and legal bases for the verdict and intend to appeal."

Caltech said in a statement that it's "pleased" about the verdict. "As a non-profit institution of higher education, Caltech is committed to protecting its intellectual property in furtherance of its mission to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education," it said.

Broadcom has long been a major component supplier for Apple devices, providing a significant percentage of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other connectivity chips for iPhones, Macs and other devices. In the last fiscal year, about 20% of its revenue came from Apple, the company said last month when reporting its annual financial results. Then last week, Broadcom said it's entered into multiyear deals to supply Apple with wireless components. It said it could generate $15 billion from the agreement.

A $1.1 billion ruling is notable for the patent industry. When Apple accused Samsung of patent infringement nearly a decade ago, the jury from a 2012 trial ordered Samsung to pay its rival over $1 billion for copying the iPhone design. The amount -- considered a landmark at the time -- was later pared down, and the companies in 2018 finally settled their litigation for an undisclosed amount

Originally published Jan. 29, 6:11 p.m. PT
Update, 7:11 p.m.: Adds Caltech comment.