Ottawa-based WiLan, part of Quarterhill Inc., is a “intellectual property licensing company” — a company that does not produce any products but that collects patents and then sues companies infringing on those patents. It makes its money by winning court judgements or by reaching agreements with accused infringers for them to pay to license the technology. Such companies are often known (not always affectionately) as “patent trolls.”
WiLan, sometimes written as Wi-Lan, holds more than 10,000 patents, with a focus on wireless technologies. That growth was driven by CEO Jim Skippen, who is retiring this month. “What we essentially prove is that if you have a product that uses Wi-Fi, by definition you have to infringe some of our patents,” he told the Financial Post in 2013.
The patents in question in the Apple case are 8,457,145 and 8,537,757, which deal with wireless bandwidth allocation and adaptive call admission control. Skippen and WiLan have signed more than 500 licensing agreements, totaling more than C$1 billion.
It’s far from Apple’s first time dealing with WiLan. In 2013, a U.S. jury ruled in favor of Apple in a separate case in which WiLan had sought $248 million in damages. And WiLan keeps rolling — in February it sued Google (googl), saying the Google Assistant infringes on intellectual property it holds that was initially developed for SRI International.
An Apple representative was not immediately available to comment.