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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jury Awards $1.17 Billion in Patent Suit

Jury Awards $1.17 Billion in Patent Suit

Carnegie Mellon University said it was awarded $1.17 billion by a federal jury in Pittsburgh on Wednesday in a unanimous verdict that found the Marvell Technology Group had sold billions of semiconductors using technology developed at the university without a license.

The award is one of the largest in a patent infringement case, and comes after a $1 billion verdict awarded to Apple this summer over its smartphone design.

Carnegie claimed that Marvell had infringed on a pair of patents relating to fundamental technology for increasing the accuracy with which hard drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks.

The patents were developed by José Moura, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Aleksandar Kavcic, a former Ph.D. student now a professor at the University of Hawaii. Their work was supported by Carnegie's Data Storage Systems Center, a university research organization.

During the trial, Marvell argued that it had not used the university's technology and that those patents were invalid because similar systems had been developed elsewhere before the university filed for its patents. A company spokesman said Marvell would seek lower damages from the judge in post-trial hearings, which are scheduled for May, and might appeal the ruling otherwise.

Patent infringement lawsuits have become a big issue in recent years as the pace of innovation and competition speeds up and technology firms increasingly seek to shield their products behind patents. As the number of technology patents filed in the United States has risen rapidly in the last decade, so have patent-related lawsuits. Recent cases have involved Microsoft, Motorola, Research in Motion, Visto, Google and many others.

In August, Apple won a $1 billion infringement judgment against Samsung over iPhone design patents. Since then, the companies have argued over the size of the verdict and how the jury reached its conclusion. Samsung has argued the figure is excessive, while Apple has sought a court injunction to bar Samsung from selling various products that the jury found infringed on its patents.

Since the jury found the infringement by Marvell had been “willful,” meaning the company knew it was using the patented technology, the judge can award up to three times the verdict amount, according to a statement by K&L Gates, the law firm representing Carnegie Mellon.

The case was tried before Judge Nora Barry Fischer of United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Marvell ships more than one billion chips a year to a variety of electronics manufacturers, including Panasonic, Sony and Dell.

After Wednesday's verdict, Marvell's share price dropped 10.3 percent, to $7.40 on the Nasdaq, valuing the company at about $4 billion.

The university said the verdict was a victory for academic research and collaboration. “Protection of the discoveries of our faculty and students is very important to us,” the university said in a statement.

“The university's singular success, particularly over the past 40 years, has been achieved in large measure through collaboration with industry. We value those relationships greatly.”

Carnegie Mellon was represented by Douglas B. Greenswag and Patrick J. McElhinny of K&L Gates.

Marvell was represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 27, 2012, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Jury Awards $1.17 Billion In Patent Suit.