Marvell Appeals Against Record Breaking $1.535 Billion Judgment in Carnegie Mellon Patent Dispute

Marvell, the fabless chip maker, has through its patent lawyers filed an appeal with the US Federal Circuit Appeals Court against the more than one billion dollar patent infringement judgment in its dispute with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The company’s lawyers made the move stating that the $1.535 billion judgment should not be the Court’s first billion dollar patent infringement judgment, an amount that the Court had not granted until now.

It’s dismay, no marvel for Marvell

Marvell and Carnegie Mellon have been locked in a patent dispute since 2009 with the semiconductor firm finding itself on the losing side. US patent numbers 6,201,839 and 6,438,180 are the focus of the dispute, which describes designs and technologies to improve the accuracy of data reading from hard disks. The university, through its patent attorneys, filed a suit in 2009, alleging that Marvell infringed on its patents after incorporating their inventions in around 2.3 billion chips shipped between 2003 and 2012. US District Judge Nora Barry Fischer ordered Marvell to pay CMU $1.17bn as compensation for the infringement.

Although the chipmaker pleaded for a reduction, Judge Fischer ordered Marvell to pay an additional $370m in punitive damages after the company was found guilty of willfully infringing the university’s patents.

Billion dollar judgment – a series of legal errors?

In its 75-page appeal, the chipmaker’s patent lawyers repeated Marvell’s earlier petition that CMU’s patents were invalid. They also argued that the patents in question only describe theoretical algorithms incapable of being commercially implemented in a semiconductor chip. In its appeal, the company cited this as the probable cause for any infringement of CMU’s patents. Marvell’s patent lawyers also claim that a series of legal errors by the district court resulted in the judgment against the company.

CMU is a college, it is not surprising much of their thinking is based on theory. Many universities live in theoretical fantasy land. This is why their liberal ideas that may work in the classroom does not work in the real world. It appears Marvell is making a case on this fact.

The chipmaker takes its argument further by claiming that around 11 companies were approached by CMU for patent licensing deals between 2003 and 2005. However, the companies declined, quoting prior art, which declares a patent on an invention not valid. Marvell also claims that companies like Intel would not even pay a flat fee of $200,000 for licensing.

The semiconductor manufacturer’s patent lawyers also argued that the court’s $1.54bn is skewed and was presumably based on $0.50 for every chip sold between 2003 and 2005. The company also claims that CMU has not provided any evidence that it licensed its patents on a per unit basis, instead of a flat fee. As part of their defense, Marvell’s lawyers also pointed out that a majority of the chip sales were made overseas, outside US patent law jurisdiction while the judgment was based on its worldwide chip sales.

The US Navy has some cool patents.

The US Navy has some cool patents.

In conclusion, Marvell’s patent attorneys appealed for a reduction of a minimum of $620 million, citing a delay of six years before CMU notified the company of patent infringement. They also pleaded that the additional $370m awarded to CMU for willful infringement be vacated.

‘Wave’ of patents for the US Navy

While patent disputes continue, IBM was at the top of the list in the number of patents granted between January and December 2013. Samsung and Canon were next on the list while Google and global semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc. were placed at 10 and 11. Apple, who recently buried the hatched with Samsung in non-US patent disputes, was ranked at number 15. Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Novartis AG and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have also been granted several patents and are among the top 300.

The US Nay tops the list in government institutions and is said to have earned 399 patents from the USPTO in 2013, more than many Fortune 500 companies and other government establishments. Among the other top ranked public institutions to receive patents is the University of California. Overall, in 2013, the USPTO granted 278,000 utility patents, a 10 percent hike from the previous year.