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Jury Hits Marvell With $1 Billion+ Fine Over CMU Patents 167

Dupple writes with news carried by the BBC of a gigantic tech-patent case that (seemingly for once) doesn't involve Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, or Google: "'U.S. chipmaker Marvell Technology faces having to pay one of the biggest ever patent damage awards. A jury in Pittsburgh found the firm guilty of infringing two hard disk innovations owned by local university Carnegie Mellon.' Though the company claims that the CMU patents weren't valid because the university hadn't invented anything new, saying a Seagate patent of 14 months earlier described everything that the CMU patents do, the jury found that Marvell's chips infringed claim 4 of Patent No. 6,201,839 and claim 2 of Patent No. 6,438,180. "method and apparatus for correlation-sensitive adaptive sequence detection" and "soft and hard sequence detection in ISI memory channels.' 'It said Marvell should pay $1.17bn (£723m) in compensation — however that sum could be multiplied up to three times by the judge because the jury had also said the act had been "wilful." Marvell's shares fell more than 10%.'"
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Jury Hits Marvell With $1 Billion+ Fine Over CMU Patents

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  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:00AM (#42403275) Homepage

    Look at this graph [], move the time scale forward and change 'hole left by Christian dark ages' to 'hole left by fear of patent infringement'.

  • Re:SSDs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:51AM (#42403637) Homepage Journal

    Whether they've made billions from the supposed patent infringement, I can't comment on.

    One thing is for sure - CMU never would have made a billion dollars by selling products containing their "invention". Even assuming the patent is worthy and that Imaginary Property deserves to exist, they never would have made anything near that amount by licensing the technology.

    If they licensed the patent to Marvell for $1.5M the staff lawyers probably would have thrown a decent party.

  • by BillX ( 307153 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:42PM (#42404391) Homepage

    Ars has another article []; this one actually cites the patent numbers and specific claims found to be infringing.

    Reading one of the claims, I can't imagine how a jury of Joe Sixpacks could possibly come to a rational conclusion on whether or not infringement occured. I'm an EE and it's gibberish to me without putting some significant Google-time in. Claim 4 of US6201389, for example:

    "4. A method of determining branch metric values for branches of a trellis for a Viterbi-like detector, comprising:

            selecting a branch metric function for each of the branches at a certain time index from a set of signal-dependent branch metric functions; and
            applying each of said selected functions to a plurality of signal samples to determine the metric value corresponding to the branch for which the applied branch metric function was selected, wherein each sample corresponds to a different sampling time instant."

  • Re:simplicity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BillX ( 307153 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:10PM (#42405093) Homepage

    Not really; an EE will see it as gibberish because this is a software algorithm patent. The fact that someone outside of the relevant field can tell it is outside their field does not make it novel. For all I know, this is an obvious and everyday implementation as viewed by satellite communications, compression or similar folks (or hard drive seek algorithm designers), but not to any old engineer (let alone any old Joe Sixpack). Which is exactly my point - a jury of randoms trying to decide a field-specialized patent case are no better than a bag of dice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @07:10PM (#42407231)

    Have you ever designed a board with Marvell chips? They require signing of an NDA by a manager before you can even look at the "personalized" watermarked datasheets. They are secretive with their products' technical data to the point of being weird. I guess now we know why.

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