The California Institute of Technology filed a enforcement action alleging infringement of four coding system patents by Broadcom Ltd. and Apple Inc.

The action filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles names Broadcom, Broadcom Corp., Avago Technologies and Apple. Avago recently acquired Broadcom for $37 billion.

Caltech alleges that Broadcom and its affiliates and Apple have infringed and continue to infringe Caltech’s U.S. Patent Nos.: 7,116,710, 7,421,032, 7,916,781, and 8,284,833.

All the patents are titled “Serial Concatenation of Interleaved Convolutional Codes Forming Turbo-Like Codes,” which relate to improvement to coding systems and methods.

According to the complaint, the asserted patents introduce a new type of error correction codes, called irregular repeat and accumulate codes, or IRA codes.

“The claimed methods and apparatuses generate an IRA code from information bits of a message by reordering repeated instances of those bits in a randomized but known way, and then performing logical operations on the reordered bits. These IRA codes are at least as effective at correcting errors in transmissions as prior coding techniques, such as turbo codes, but use simpler encoding and decoding circuitry and provide other technical and practical advantages, allowing for improved transmission rates and performance. Indeed, the IRA codes disclosed in the asserted patents enable a transmission rate close to the theoretical limit.

“The asserted patents implement these novel IRA codes using novel encoders and decoders. The claims in the asserted patents describe the error correction methods in ways that enable a person of ordinary skill in the art to implement them using simple circuitry, providing improved performance over prior art encoders and decoders.”

The timing of the action is just after Tessera Technologies (TSRA) on Tuesday filed two enforcement actions federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, alleging Broadcom and its affiliates and customers infringed 7 semiconductor patents owned by Tessera.

Tessera also filed a complaint against Broadcom and its affiliates and customers with the International Trade Commission seeking an exclusionary order. Tessera also filed enforcement actions in courts in Germany and the Netherlands alleging infringement of a European patent.

Caltech’s decision to name Apple comes a month after the computer giant agreed to pay $24.5 million to settle an enforcement action brought by Marathon Patent Group (MARA) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. That settlement followed a $234 million the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation won against Apple in October. Apple is appealing that award. In February, Carnegie Mellon University won a $750 million settlement from Marvell Technology Group Ltd.

Juries tend to view universities more favorably as plaintiffs than they do for-profit NPEs.

Caltech may be hoping its status as a non-profit research university rather than as a for profit non-practicing entity will pressure Broadcom and Apple to settle rather than litigate and risk another hundred million jury award.

"Universities have had success recently," said Mark Gober, a senior director at 3LP Advisors in Silicon Valley. "Just look at Carnegie Mellon, WARF, and RPI. The numbers being thrown around in these cases are probably making many universities look more closely at their portfolios to see if they have any similar gems that could be revenue generators."

Gober noted that Caltech filed on four different patents, which is much better than one or two patents given the likelihood of an inter partes review or IPR challenge. "It will likely be difficult for the defendants to knock out all of the claims at issue."

James Asperger and Kevin Johnson, partners with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in Los Angeles and Redwood Shores, California, respectively, are representing Caltech.

Neither Asperger nor Johnson could be reached for comment.

Representatives for Broadcom and Apple couldn't be reached for comment.

Caltech also filed a motion about two related cases against Hughes Communications that are pending cases in the Central District of California involving the same patents-in-suit. They are Caltech v. Hughes Communications (Case No. 2:13-cv-7245-MRP-JEM) and Caltech v. Hughes Communications (Case No. 2:15-cv-01108-MRP-JEM).

"The Caltech I and II cases are nearly closed as the parties filed a joint stipulated motion for
dismissal with prejudice on May 25, 2016. Caltech does not believe these cases are related to the instant case under Local Rule 83-1.3 because there are a number of distinct issues of fact and law at issue in the instant case, including infringement of different products, and the cases involve different defendants. However, Caltech is filing this notice out of an abundance of caution because the cases involve the same patents-in-suit."

—To reach the reporter responsible for this story, please contact Dan Lonkevich at 707 318-7899, or