Billion-dollar lawsuit by CMU over audio patent goes to jury
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A federal jury here is set to resume deliberations Wednesday on whether a California company violated a Carnegie Mellon University patent, with the stakes potentially in the billions of dollars.
After four weeks of trial during which the federal courthouse, Downtown, hosted opposing armies of attorneys, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Friday dismissed a motion for mistrial by Marvell Technology Group. It could be revisited after the jury renders a verdict. It began deliberating early Friday.
The case revolves around an obscure technological advance.
Alek Kavcic and Jose Moura of Carnegie Mellon conceived in 1996 of an improvement in magnetic recording technology, using a device called a Viterbi detector to combat extraneous "noise," according to the court filings in the case. They obtained two patents.
In the lawsuit filed in 2009, the university claimed that Marvell used the technology without a license, and owes royalties. Marvell countered that the method had already been patented in 1995 by other researchers, and so the company didn't infringe on CMU's intellectual property.
"CMU's damages demand is $1.169 billion and counting," Marvell's attorneys wrote in their mistrial motion last week. "CMU has also requested three times enhancement for alleged willfulness."
Patent infringers can be compelled to pay multiples of the actual damages if they knew they were taking someone's intellectual property and proceeded anyway.
Marvell's mistrial motion accused CMU's attorneys of improperly comparing a patent infringement allegation to "identity theft," among other things, to inflame the jury.
CMU's attorneys countered that Marvell was "desperate to derail this case from a final adjudication by the jury ... despite the enormous resources brought to bear on it by the court and the parties."
They went on to write that Marvell officials knew they were infringing on CMU's patents and ignored written warnings from the university.
An attorney representing CMU declined to comment. Neither attorneys nor spokesmen for Marvell could be reached.
First Published December 24, 2012 12:00 am