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Marvell Ordered To Pay Carnegie Mellon $1.54 Billion For Storage Patent Infringement

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The judge increases the fine by $366 million to penalize “egregious behaviour”

The US semiconductor manufacturer Marvell will have to pay $1.54 billion (£920m) to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), after damages in a patent infringement lawsuit were increased considerably by a federal judge.

In December 2013, Marvell was found guilty of wilfully and knowingly infringing on  two storage patents developed at the university.

The award previously defined by the jury stood at $1.17 billion, but it was ‘enhanced’ after the court obtained access to additional financial information.

Big money

In March 2009, Carnegie Mellon University sued Marvell over two patents issued in 2001 and 2002, which it claimed were used in Marvell’s Media Noise Processor (MNP) and Non-Linear Viterbi Detector (NLD) chips – both used to improve hard disk data read accuracy at high speed.

Marvell_Santa_Clara_May_2011CMU said that at least nine Marvell circuit devices incorporated the patents, and several billions of units were shipped.

The jury originally ruled that CMU was entitled to a royalty of $0.50 per chip sold by Marvell, thus leading to an award of $1.17 billion – the third largest penalty in a patent case in the US at the time.

Later, it emerged that the company was aware that it was infringing on CMU’s patents for at least seven years prior to the lawsuit being filed. This caused the judge to increase the award by more than $366 million to $1.54 billion – equal to almost half of Marvell’s revenue in 2013.

“This award is sufficient to penalize Marvell for its egregious behaviour and to deter future infringement activities,” the judge wrote in a decision seen by Reuters.

Marvell had previously claimed that the technology described in CMU’s patents is “so complex that it cannot be implemented in real-world silicon chips”. The company owns more than 100 patents on media noise post-processing, including several related to MNP and NLD features. It also argued against the amount of damages awarded to the university.

At the same time, Carnegie Mellon previously attempted to triple the penalty, but the judge ruled that this would threaten Marvell’s very survival.

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