Marvell, Carnegie Mellon settle patent dispute over hard drive chips

Marvell has agreed to pay the institution $750 million

Chip company Marvell Technology Group has settled with Carnegie Mellon University to end a long-standing patent dispute over chips used in hard disk drives.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Marvell has agreed to pay CMU US$750 million, with no ongoing royalty payments, which is far lower than the $1.54 billion that a court in Pennsylvania had awarded the university.

The two patents in the seven-year-old suit relate to methods to improve accuracy in the detection of recorded data when certain types of errors are likely due to the recording medium and reading mechanism. They were U.S. Patent No. 6,201,839, titled “Method and Apparatus for Correlation-Sensitive Adaptive Sequence Detection,” and related No. 6,438,180, titled “Soft and Hard Sequence Detection in ISI Memory Channels.”

The jury had awarded the university about $1.17 billion, corresponding to a 50-cents-per-chip royalty on Marvell’s sales. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, after other adjustments including for the extension of the covered period and charges of willful infringement, entered a judgment of roughly $1.54 billion and a continuing royalty at 50 cents per Marvell-sold chip.

The U.S. Court of Appeals or the Federal Circuit in August reduced the award to $278 million and remanded back to the district court for a new trial to determine whether certain chips were finally sold in the U.S. 

CMU said in a statement that a "substantial share" of the proceeds from the settlement will go to the inventors, José Moura, a professor in Carnegie Mellon's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Aleksandar Kavcic, a former doctoral student of Moura and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Hawaii.

The settlement resolves all pending appeals, according to a statement issued by Marvell. The university expects to receive about $250 million from the settlement after legal fees and related costs, most of which it will use to benefit students.

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