Feeds

Crushing $1.17bn Marvell patent judgment could set record

Curtains for US chipmaker?

The Power of One Infographic

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.