Carnegie Mellon University wins $1.17B verdict against Marvell Semiconductor

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Carnegie Mellon University is one of the latest schools to be involved in the patent lawsuit battles. This time, it is a major win over Marvell Semiconductor for a whooping $1.17 Billion.


The latest reports is that a Pittsburgh Jury has found out that Marvell Semiconductor has infringed on two patents of Carnegie Mellon University. Nine jurors have held that Marvell should have to pay $1,169,140,271 in damages—the full sum that CMU’s lawyers had asked for.


If the verdict holds up on appeal, it would wipe out more than a year of profits at Marvell, which made a bit over $900 million in 2011. It would also be the largest patent verdict in history, beating out this summer’s $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung for infringing patents and trademarks owned by Apple.


The two CMU patents describe a way of reducing “noise” when reading information off hard disks. The jury found that Marvell’s chips infringed claim 4 of Patent No. 6,201,839 and claim 2 of Patent No. 6,438,180. At trial, Marvell hotly contested that CMU had invented anything new; they argued that a Seagate patent, filed 14 months earlier, describes everything in CMU’s invention.


Court documents showed that Marvell sold 2.34 billion allegedly infringing chips between 2003 and 2012, according to a report. About half of the chips were sold to Western Digital. Seagate is also a major purchaser of Marvell chips.


Marvell is based in Santa Clara and the company is one of Silicon Valley’s success stories. Its founder Sehat Sutardja grew up fixing radios in his Jakarta home, ultimately getting his PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley before founding Marvell Semiconductor in 1995. Marvell stock is trading down more than 10 percent following today’s verdict.


CMU’s attorney also started to compare Marvell’s alleged patent infringement to identity theft. “The invention in this case is like your electronic identity, your credit card numbers, your Social Security number,” said CMU lawyer Douglas Greenswag. “It’s that which [sic] are very personal and valuable to you. You devote years to building up your reputation, your credit rating, your standing. One day Marvell sneaks in—”


US District Judge Nora Fischer has set a schedule for briefing post-trial issues that requires both sides to file motions between February and April of next year, with a motions hearing scheduled for early May.


What do you think of this all-time record breaking patent lawsuit? Share your thoughts and comments below.


Srikanth A.N. is the founder and editor-in-chief of Infworm, one of the fastest growing technology and information destination. Srikanth is currently an Electronics Engineering undergrad from the University of Mumbai. Follow him on Google+.

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