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Billions at stake in patent fight

Carnegie Mellon says company infringed on it.

PITTSBURGH - A federal jury is to resume deliberations Wednesday on whether a California company violated a Carnegie Mellon University patent, with the stakes potentially in the billions of dollars.

After four weeks of trial, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Friday dismissed a motion for mistrial by Marvell Technology Group. It could be revisited after the jury renders a verdict. Jurors began deliberating early Friday.

In 1996, Alek Kavcic and Jose Moura of Carnegie Mellon conceived of an improvement in magnetic recording technology, using a device called a Viterbi detector to combat extraneous "noise," according to court filings in the case. They obtained two patents.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2009, the university claimed that Marvell used the technology without a license and owes royalties. Marvell countered that the method had been patented in 1995 by other researchers and so the company did not infringe on the school's intellectual property.

"CMU's damages demand is $1.169 billion and counting," Marvell's attorneys wrote in their mistrial motion last week. "CMU has also requested three times enhancement for alleged willfulness."

Patent infringers can be compelled to pay multiples of the actual damages if they knew they were taking someone's intellectual property.

Marvell's motion accused the school's attorneys of improperly comparing a patent infringement allegation to "identity theft," among other things, to inflame the jury.

Carnegie Mellon attorneys countered that Marvell was "desperate to derail this case from a final adjudication by the jury ... despite the enormous resources brought to bear on it by the court and the parties."

They wrote that Marvell officials knew they were infringing on patents and ignored written warnings from the university.

An attorney representing the school declined to comment. Neither attorneys nor spokesmen for Marvell could be reached.