In 2012, a Pittsburgh jury ordered Marvell Semiconductor to pay Carnegie Mellon University $1.17 billion for infringing two patents related to reducing hard drive “noise.” It was the largest patent verdict of all time, and it got bigger when the federal judge overseeing the case knocked the damages up to $1.54 billion and added an ongoing royalty.
A ruling (PDF) today from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has cut Marvell’s award significantly, affirming only $278 million in damages and ordering a re-trial over other damages issues. The three-judge panel struck all enhanced damages, saying that the additional penalty wasn’t warranted. Even though Marvell lost at trial, its patent invalidity defense was “objectively reasonable,” and therefore its infringement was not willful.
The parts of the case that need re-trial involve the location of sale of many of Marvell’s infringing chips; the judge must re-consider the issue of whether some chips were sold in the United States or not. Chips that were produced abroad, sold abroad, and not imported into the US can’t be slapped with a royalty payment based on Carnegie Mellon’s US patents.
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