Feeds

Crushing $1.17bn Marvell patent judgment could set record

Curtains for US chipmaker?

A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania jury has found chipmaker Marvell guilty of infringing patents owned by Carnegie Mellon University, resulting in what could prove to be the largest patent damage award in US history.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the jury awarded the university a judgment of $1.17bn after determining that Marvell chips developed for use in hard disk drives infringed on CMU-owned patents.

That figure tops the record-setting $1.05bn awarded to Apple in its patent suit against Samsung, although Judge Lucy Koh has yet to finalize the amount owed in that case.

In a particularly damaging blow to Marvell, however, jurors also found that the company was aware of the CMU patents when it developed its infringing technology. Under US law, such a finding of willful infringement could allow US District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to increase the damages in the case to as much as triple the figure awarded by the jury.

If Judge Fischer chose to impose the maximum penalty, it would leave Marvell with a total bill of $3.51bn – an amount equal to 92 per cent of the company's current $3.82bn market valuation.

A relative newcomer in the US chips industry, Marvell was founded in 1995 and quickly rose to become one of the leading fabless semiconductor companies. In addition to tech for disk drives, it develops chips found in a wide range of electronics, including broadband and wireless equipment, storage controllers, LCD displays, and TV set-top boxes.

The patents at issue in the current lawsuit involve inventions developed by CMU professor José Moura and former graduate student Alek Kavcic that allow hard disks to retrieve data accurately from platters spinning at high speeds, thanks to "noise-predictive technology."

Carnegie Mellon first brought suit against Marvell for unlawfully including the inventions in its chips in 2009. Between 2003 and 2012, the university says, the chipmaker shipped some 2.3 billion chips incorporating the technologies.

On Wednesday, the jury sided with CMU, finding that Marvell had infringed in every patent claim asserted by the university in the case.

In a statement, a CMU spokesperson said the university was "gratified" by the verdict in the four-week trial, adding that it did not undertake the suit lightly and that it was a "a hard fought battle every step of the way."

Marvell, on the other hand, disputed the jury's findings and says it will appeal the verdict. In a statement issued on Thursday, company reps reasserted that Marvell had infringed no CMU patents, going so far as to claim that "the theoretical methods described in these patents cannot practically be built in silicon even using the most advanced techniques available today, let alone with the technology available a decade ago."

According to Marvell, the specific techniques used in its chips, although superficially similar to the techniques described in the CMU patents, are actually based on in-house technology covered by Marvell's own patents.

Even if an appeals court finds in Marvell's favor, however, the company will likely not be off the hook. Large jury awards are often reduced on appeal, but even a smaller award could still leave Marvell with a record-setting judgment against it, should it be tripled due to the finding of willful infringement.

Investors do not seem optimistic. Marvell's shares fell by 10 per cent on the news and continued their decline on Thursday, shedding an additional 3.51 per cent to close at $7.14 per share, a new low. ®

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.