Attorneys argue over CMU's billion-dollar patent verdict

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A small army of patent attorneys representing Carnegie Mellon University on one side and Marvell Technology Group on the other today began a multi-day motions hearing over whether a $1.17 billion jury verdict won by CMU in December should be enhanced, or slashed.

CMU's attorneys told U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer that she can double, or even triple the award. Lawyers for Marvell countered that it would be more appropriate to cut it to, say, $10 million or $20 million.

The jury found that Santa Clara-based computer chip maker Marvell willfully used technology patented by CMU professor Jose Moura and then-student Alek Kavcic in chips used to increase the accuracy with which hard-disk drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks. Because the technology was used to help sell 2.34 billion chips, and an expert said CMU should get 50 cents per chip, the jury awarded what Judge Fischer said was the biggest patent verdict in the country last year.

Since the infringement was found to be willful, "there would be no abuse of discretion here to treble the damages," said attorney Douglas B. Greenswag, for CMU.

For Marvell, attorney Kathleen M. Sullivan countered that the "unprecedented, unjustifiable, jaw-dropping verdict" is based on a flawed theory that even 1.8 billion chips that never entered the U.S. should be considered. She also suggested that 3 cents per chip, rather than 50 cents, would be an appropriate royalty.

Arguments on post-trial motions in the case are expected to run throughout the day tomorrow. Judge Fischer predicted that the case will end up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit regardless of her decisions on the motions.


Correction/Clarification: (Published May 1, 2013) An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified in which court the case will end up. education - mobilehome - neigh_city - breaking

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord


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