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Caltech Is Apple’s Latest Patent Foe

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Apple iPhone SE in Rose Gold.Jason Cipriani

Apple is having patent troubles again.

California Institute of Technology, the top-notch science and engineering school in Pasadena, Calif., has filed a lawsuit against Apple (AAPL) and chipmaker Broadcom (BRCM) for allegedly infringing on its patents for wireless technologies.

In a court filing in a federal court for Central California, Caltech accused Apple and Broadcom of profiting off the use of its Wi-Fi technology in devices including iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch, and Macs. The patents relate specifically to the way Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11n and 802.11ac, use encoding and decoding to improve data performance and transmission.

Apple-tracking site MacRumors earlier reported on the lawsuit.

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The Caltech lawsuit, which includes four patents, is a bit complex. The lawsuit takes aim at Broadcom because its chips allegedly use the technology, but it also targets Apple, a Broadcom customer that uses the chips in its products.

 

 

Apple is no stranger to lawsuits. The company has been waging a patent battle with Samsung since 2011, when the companies both argued the other was stealing their technologies for smartphones and tablets. While they ended up dropping most of their suits, they’re expected to battle over patents in the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.

Apple has also faced several lawsuits from so-called “patent trolls,” or companies that hold patents they either acquired or obtained by inventing technologies. Patent trolls don’t actually create products and instead rely on lawsuits and royalties to make money.

Apple was most recently sued by such a company in Texas over iPhones being able to make calls and send emails, among other simple features. The case has yet to go to court.

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The case involving Caltech, however, is different because the school often invents technology and tries to commercialize it. In some cases, the university licenses technologies that it patents.

With Apple and Broadcom, Caltech argued that the companies used its patented technologies without its permission. The university is seeking unspecified damages.

While the case is far from being settled, Apple doesn’t have the best history when facing off against universities. As The Verge earlier noted, last year, a jury ruled that Apple must pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison $234 million for violating patents it holds in both iPhones and iPads.

Apple declined to comment on the Caltech lawsuit. Caltech and Broadcom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.