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Patent complaint against A7 chip

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The patent management arm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has taken aim at Cupertino over patent infringement in Apple's A7 chip.

Its complaint here alleges infringement of a 1998 patent covering processor pipelining.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation – WARF for short – took on Intel back in 2008 over the same patent, saying the Core 2 Duo processor infringed its patent. That challenge was settled for the usual undisclosed sum in 2009.

Its '752 patent – here – covers a code branch prediction technique. The processor takes a guess at a future dependency (what instruction is coming next?) and starts executing the predicted instruction. If it's right, that speeds up processing.

While it could be viewed as “yet another NPE trolling a high-profile vendor”, there seems to be more to the story than that. In its argument with WARF, Intel didn't deny that '752 was a valid patent; rather, Intel said it had the right to use the technology.

Rather, in the 2008/09 spat, Chipzilla said it had the right to use the research, led by processor pipelining pioneer Gurindar Sohi, without payment because it partly funded the development. That row was settled before the trial began.

WARF's complaint notes that Apple has cited the '752 patent in some of its own patent applications (meaning that Cupertino was aware of the patent), but rebuffed WARF's approaches seeking a licensing deal. ®

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