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Carnegie Mellon University awarded an extra $366 million in federal patent case

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

Billion-dollar patent verdicts are often reversed or reduced on appeal, but a $1.54 billion verdict in favor of Carnegie Mellon University has a good chance of bucking the trend, a legal expert said on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer has been painstaking in her handling of the lawsuit brought against Bermuda-based chip manufacturer Marvell Technology Group Ltd., said Michael Madison, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who specializes in intellectual property law.

Madison pointed to the 72-page order that Fischer issued on Monday increasing the verdict by $366 million.

“Judge Fischer has been exceptionally careful throughout the case. That is the kind of record an appellate court would defer to,” Madison said.

A federal jury in December 2012 ruled that Marvell infringed on the university's patented noise-reduction technology in chips manufactured for computer hard drives. It awarded Carnegie Mellon $1.17 billion.

Fischer's increased verdict includes $79.6 million for chips sold between July 29, 2012, and Jan. 14, 2013, which weren't covered by the jury's verdict, along with a 23 percent penalty for the company knowingly using the patents without negotiating a royalty. Fischer ruled that Marvell owes a royalty of 50 cents for each new chip it sells with CMU's technology.

Fischer could have tripled the damages under federal law, but she said she didn't think that was warranted based on several factors, including the university waiting more than five years to file its lawsuit.

Marvell plans to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals once Fischer issues a final judgment, said Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Marvell. Fischer gave both sides until April 15 to propose what they believe that final judgment should say.

Marvell reported $3.4 billion in revenue and $325 million in net income during its past fiscal year, which ended Feb. 1.

CMU referred questions to a public relations firm, which released a statement from K&L Gates, the law firm representing the university. The law firm says it's reviewing Fischer's opinion and is pleased the judge addressed the university's claim that Marvell is continuing to infringe on CMU's patents.

“We understand that Marvell intends to appeal, and we look forward to the Federal Circuit vindicating Carnegie Mellon University's intellectual property rights just as Judge Fischer did,” the law firm said.

To appeal, Marvell will have to post a bond covering the $1.5 billion judgment. Both sides are negotiating that bond agreement.

“That's not a trivial thing to do,” Madison said.

It could take another year before a three-judge panel issues an appellate ruling, he said.

Fischer's rulings in the case appear as “bulletproof” as a judgment can be, Madison said.

“All of the orders she has written have been extremely long and detailed. To me, that's evidence of a very careful judge,” Madison said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or




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