January 3, 2012 - On December 26, a jury found that Marvell, a California-based semiconductor company, had infringed two patents belonging to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The jury awarded $1.17 billion in damages to CMU.
The two CMU patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,201,839 and 6,438,180, which cover error-correcting codes for magnetic media. Marvell argued that it not only didn't infringe the patent, but that it is practically impossible to practice the patent and that the technology described is purely theoretical.
However, CMU successfully argued that Marvell not only infringed the patents but that the technology was critical to Marvell's products.
"Marvell and Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. strongly believe 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," Marvell stated in its press release. "Rather, Marvell and MSI use their own patented read channel technology developed in house. Nevertheless, the jury disagreed with Marvell and MSI’s position and found that the patents were literally and willfully infringed and valid, and awarded damages in the amount of $1.17 billion."
Part of the reason the damages award is so high is because the jury found evidence of willful infringement: CMU introduced into evidence some of Marvell's code and simulations that were named after the CMU professors named as inventors in the patents. It was also revealed that CMU sent a letter to Marvell in 2003 with an offer to license the two patents but received no response.
Marvell stated in its press release that it has "strong grounds for appeal" and plans to do so.