Feeds

Crushing $1.17bn Marvell patent judgment could set record

Curtains for US chipmaker?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.