Jury Awards $1.17 Billion in Patent Suit Against Marvell Technology Group

A U.S. jury said Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL) should pay $1.17 billion in damages that may be tripled for infringing patents for integrated-circuit technology held by Carnegie Mellon University. The jury found Marvell’s infringement willful, providing a basis for U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to increase the award by as much as three times, according to a statement by K&L Gates LLP, the law firm representing the university. Carnegie Mellon sued over use of the two patents, issued in 2001 and 2002 (patents 6,201,839 and 6,438,180), that cover ways to detect data stored on a computer’s hard-disk drive by filtering out noise or unwanted electrical signals. The school in a March 6 complaint said at least nine types of Marvell’s circuits use its inventions. The case is Carnegie Mellon University v. Marvell Technology Group Ltd., 09cv290, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

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Carnegie claimed that Marvell had infringed on a pair of patents relating to fundamental technology for increasing the accuracy with which hard drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks. The patents were developed by José Moura, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Aleksandar Kavcic, a former Ph.D. student now a professor at the University of Hawaii. Their work was supported by Carnegie’s Data Storage Systems Center, a university research organization. During the trial, Marvell argued that it had not used the university’s technology and that those patents were invalid because similar systems had been developed elsewhere before the university filed for its patents. A company spokesman said Marvell would seek lower damages from the judge in post-trial hearings, which are scheduled for May, and might appeal the ruling otherwise.

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