Nine jurors have ordered Marvell to pay Carnegie Mellon University $1,169,140,271 in damages for infringing two hard drive patents. If the ruling sticks on appeal, it would claim more than a year's worth of profits at Marvell, which earned just over $900 million last year and $615 million this year. Additionally, it would be the largest US patent verdict to date, topping this August's $1.05 billion ruling in the Apple versus Samsung case.
Held at a Pittsburgh federal court, the four-week trial involved CMU patents (No. 6,201,839 and 6,438,180) describing "noise predictive technology" that increases the speed by which circuits in hard drives read data from magnetic disks. Marvell insisted that the university hasn't made any innovations, as a Seagate patent (No. 6,282,251) filed 14 months prior to one of CMU's holdings describes everything covered by the patents in question.
The jury disagreed with that argument, finding Marvell guilty of selling 2.34 billion chips with the technology without a license from CMU. Even worse, the jury found that Marvell's infringement was willful, which could allow trial judge Nora Barry Fischer to award triple the damages -- a figure that would approach the Bermuda-based semiconductor company's $3.77 billion market cap. The final judgment is set to be made on May 1, 2013.
Marvell will appeal the ruling and maintains that it strongly believes "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." The company added that it uses its own patented read channel technology developed in-house. Following the news, Marvell's share price has fallen by more than 10%.
Marvell image via Flickr