You know them from their chips, Marvell network controller and SSD controllers. Well, Marvell lost a lawsuit to a University over a patent. A Pittsburgh federal jury on Wednesday awarded Carnegie Mellon University one of the largest patent damage awards in the country in a lawsuit over a Bermuda-based chip manufacturer‘s use of the university‘s technology. But the $1.169 billion verdict marks the halfway point in a lengthy litigation battle, two lawyers said.
Carnegie Mellon University has developed and patented a technology that "increases the accuracy with which hard disk drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks," and that is the sore spot as Marvell seems to be infringing that specific segment of the patent.
“We‘re disappointed, obviously, by the verdict,” said Steven G. Madison, one of the Los Angeles-based attorneys defending Marvell Technology Group Ltd. against CMU‘s claims.
The verdict came after four weeks of testimony in U.S. District Court, Downtown, but Madison said the case is far from over. Marvell has several pending motions that include asking for a mistrial based on comments the university‘s attorney made in closing statements. It also challenges the method CMU used for calculating damages and the sufficiency of the evidence on which the jury based its verdict. “It‘s like halftime,” Madison said of the case. Carnegie Mellon sued Marvell in 2009 over chips used in high-speed computer hard drives that enable accurate reading of the data on the drives. In a ruling that could triple the damages, the jury also determined that the company, whose U.S. operations are based in Santa Clara, Calif., violated the university‘s patents knowingly.
Michael Madison, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies patent law and is not related to Steven Madison, confirmed the award is one of the largest but said it might not stand.“Unless the case settles, maybe it‘s halftime,” he said. “Maybe it‘s just the end of the first quarter.” A team of lawyers from the K&L Gates firm in Pittsburgh and Seattle represented Carnegie Mellon. “We take special pride in this trial victory because of the decades-long relationship between our firm and Carnegie Mellon University and our deep appreciation for CMU‘s path-breaking and leadership role in the information age,” said Peter J. Kalis, K&L Gates‘ chairman and global managing partner. Mark Lemley, a Stanford University professor who tracks patent verdicts, said this one is the largest surviving verdict in a patent case. There have been at least two larger patent verdicts, one for $1.67 billion and one for $1.52 billion, but both were overturned, according to Lex Machina, a Palo Alto, Calif., company that tracks patent litigation. About half of the 2.34 billion chips Marvell sold between 2003 and 2012 went to hard drive manufacturer Western Digital, according to court documents.
Jose Moura, a CMU professor, and Aleksandar Kavcic, a former doctorate student of Moura‘s, developed the technology with support from a CMU research center that collaborates with industry on real-world problems, the university said in a statement after the verdict. The university believes protecting such discoveries is important, the statement said. “We did not undertake this suit lightly and once we undertook it we did not pursue it lightly,” CMU said. The nine-member jury began deliberations on Friday afternoon, broke for the Christmas holidays and resumed on Wednesday morning. Jurors returned with their verdict shortly after noon. They unanimously found for the university on all 14 of its patent infringement claims against Marvell and rejected Marvell‘s counterclaims that the CMU patents were invalid.
U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer scheduled a May 1 hearing on pending motions in the case.