As Marvell Technology Group Ltd embarks on a legal process to void a
$1.17 billion damages verdict in a patent dispute with Carnegie Mellon
University, it has some reasons to be optimistic.
The verdict was
delivered on Wednesday by a jury in Pittsburgh, which found that Marvell
had infringed two patents owned by Carnegie Mellon related to how
accurately hard-drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks.
On Thursday, Marvell said that it would seek to overturn the verdict through post-trial motions at the district court.
also said that, if necessary, it would appeal to the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That court, which oversees appeals in
patent infringement cases, has proven willing to throw out large
verdicts in the recent past.
Brian Love, a professor at Santa
Clara University School of Law who specializes in patent law, said
damages awards are reversed about 20 percent of the time on appeal.
Further, he said, "the larger a damages award is, the more susceptible
it is to attack." The award is one of the largest by a U.S. jury in a
patent infringement case.
Other large verdicts have not held up on
appeal. In February 2011, Abbott Laboratories, for example, succeeded
in overturning a $1.67 billion verdict against it in a patent
infringement verdict won by a Johnson & Johnson unit.
verdict, the largest ever by a jury in U.S. patent infringement
litigation, was delivered in 2009 by a jury in Texas which found that
Abbott's arthritis drug Humira had infringed the Johnson & Johnson
unit's patent. But the Federal Circuit ruled that the patents at issue
were invalid and thus could not be infringed.
Microsoft Corp has
also successfully cut down big patent infringement verdicts delivered
against it. In 2007, it was hit with a $1.52 billion verdict in a case
brought by Alcatel-Lucent SA over patents related to digital music
But, after post-trial motions, the judge who oversaw
the case set aside the verdict, finding that Microsoft's Windows Media
Player did not infringe the patents held by Alcatel-Lucent. The Federal
Circuit affirmed his decision.
It's unclear which issues Marvell
will raise in its post-trial motions and appeals. In a statement on
Thursday the company said it did not infringe Carnegie Mellon's patents
and that those patents could not have practically been used in its
Legal experts said Marvell's lawyers could attack the
jury's damages calculation. Love of Santa Clara Law noted that the award
exceeds Marvell's annual profits and is more than one quarter of the
company's market capitalization.
"The law of patent damages is
fuzzy, and leaves parties leeway to argue for damages amounts that
differ drastically, often by 100-fold and sometimes much more," he said.
it received precisely what it requested, an amount calculated by an
outside expert based on assumptions that could later be questioned, this
award may be in "greater jeopardy than usual," Love said.
may contest the jury's finding that it willfully infringed the patents,
which allows Judge Nora Barry Fischer to treble the damages owed to
In a decision issued in June, the Federal Circuit
gave judges discretion in determining whether infringement was willful.
Before that decision, willfulness was often left entirely up to juries.
"Typically that is a focal point of post-trial motions," said Donald Dunner, a patent attorney who is not involved in the case.
may also renew arguments it made in a motion seeking a mistrial earlier
this month based on allegedly improper arguments made by Carnegie
Mellon's lawyers during closing arguments. Judge Fischer denied the
motion, but said she would consider it at the conclusion of the trial
"in light of the entire record, argument, and legal authority."
© Thomson Reuters 2012