Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute sues Apple Inc. and gets paid

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A Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate student and engineering professor were awarded $25 million from Apple Inc. after a two year legal battle over the patent of one of Apple’s most iconic features, Siri. Siri is the voice command feature on the iPhone.

Users can ask Siri questions ranging from ‘who is the President of the United States?’ to ‘where is the nearest convenience store?’. The legal battle began in 2012, after Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor, Cheng Hsu, and former RPI graduate student, Dr. Veera Boonjing, claimed that they developed and patented the technology for Siri in 2007, four years before it’s debut on the iPhone 4S back in the fall of 2011.

Apple has sold 30 to 50 million iPhones per fiscal quarter after the launch of Siri. Both Hsu and Boonjing were given legal support by the RPI and the Marathon Patent Group, the chief patent licensor for RPI.

Both parties attempted to settle the dispute arbitrarily, but the discussions led to no progress and litigation was the next resort.

The case came under the U.S courts in 2012 and RPI’s jurisdiction sent the case to the U.S District Court in Albany.

During the court process RPI was not sure how to value the worth of the Siri technology, but referenced a past case between Samsung and Apple where Apple was awarded $120 million due to their claims in court that Samsung infringed on several Apple patents, including two patents that covered the Siri technology.

Court filing of the case are kept under tight disclosure due to those documents containing sensitive information about Apple’s business practices and technology, which would give competitors and significant advantage against the tech giant whose stock price is at $105.68 as of Friday, April 22.

On April 19, Apple Inc. agreed to award the plaintiffs an estimated total of $25 million.

The Marathon Patent Group will receive $5 million under the condition that it drops its case against Apple Inc. immediately. The plaintiffs being represented by RPI’s counsel will receive $19.9 million dollars under unspecified conditions that have not been released to the public.

An RPI spokesperson stated, “we cannot comment on pending litigation,” referencing to the fact that the case is meant to go to the U.S Court in the Northern District of New York next month. According to the Albany Business Review, RPI has not fully agreed to Apple Inc’s royalty proposal or its demand to allow Apple the retain patent rights over the technology behind Siri.

A document filed by the Marathon Patent Group stated that the issue, “may have to be resolved in arbitration.”

If conditions are met, according to Apple inc., RPI graduate, Dr. Veera boonjing alone stands to win 17.5 percent of the awarded damages.

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