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Carnegie Mellon seeks up to triple damages in Marvell patent case

By Erin Geiger Smith

(Reuters) - Carnegie Mellon University is asking a court to make Marvell Technology Group Ltd pay up to three times the $1.17 billion jury verdict that the chipmaker was ordered to pay in December for patent infringement.

The university filed papers Monday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, saying Marvell knew it was using Carnegie Mellon patents wrongfully and should pay up to triple damages as a result. Carnegie Mellon also is seeking $321 million in pre-judgment interest.

In its filing, Carnegie Mellon noted that the judge has discretion on how to calculate any enhanced damages, and could award less than triple the jury's award.

Marvell, whose chips are used for reading and writing data on hard-disk drives, is seeking to overturn the jury's findings that it infringed two Carnegie Mellon patents. The award is one of the biggest by a U.S. jury in a patent case and follows the $1.05 billion that Apple Inc was awarded against Samsung Electronics in a case over smartphone design last August.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer has set a May 1 hearing to consider final judgment in the Marvell case.

Marvell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Attorney Mark Knedeisen of K&L Gates, who represents the university, declined to comment.

Carnegie Mellon sued the chipmaker in March 2009 over patents issued to the university in 2001 and 2002. The Pittsburgh university said at least nine Marvell circuit devices incorporated the patents, and that the infringement let the company sell billions of chips using the technology without permission.

In Monday's court papers, the university argued that Marvell knowingly and repeatedly copied the university's patents. A finding that a defendant acted willfully in patent cases allows a court to impose damages of up to three times the jury verdict.

The university also said it is entitled to interest for the period from March 2003 until January 14 of this year, when the court formally recognized the jury verdict. It has also asked for unspecified interest for the period since the verdict.

Carnegie Mellon also asked the judge to issue a permanent injunction to prevent Marvell from continuing to infringe its patents.

The university said there is a risk Marvell will not pay the judgment, noting that the company's regulatory filings do not mention setting aside reserves to pay the university.

Marvell is based in Hamilton, Bermuda. Its U.S. operating unit Marvell Semiconductor Inc is based in Santa Clara, California, and was also a defendant in the case.

Marvell's shares fell more than 10 percent following the December 26 verdict, closing that day at $7.40. Since then, its shares have climbed and closed up 9 cents at $9.55 on the Nasdaq on Monday.

The case is Carnegie Mellon University v. Marvell Technology Group, Ltd. et al, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, No. 09-00290.

(Reporting By Erin Geiger Smith; Editing by Martha Graybow and Cynthia Osterman, Gary Hill)

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