Another Billion Dollar Patent Judgment

January 21, 2013

dollar computerLitigation around the world underscores the substantial economic value of patents and other forms of intellectual property on a virtually daily basis.  A few months ago, Apple, Inc. won an award in excess of one billion dollars against Samsung Electronics Company.  Now, Carnegie Mellon University has won a judgment of approximately $1.17 billion against microchip manufacturing company, Marvell Technology Group Ltd.

The patents at issue addressed technology which helps to increase the accuracy of the data retrieval process for computer drives.  Marvell applies this type of technology in the disk drives it manufactures for personal computers and servers.

The case was handled by Judge Nora Barry Fischer in federal district court in Pennsylvania.  In addition to the damage award, the jury in the case also reportedly found that the infringement was willful.  This finding could result in an increase in the size of the damage award up to three times the $1.17 billion assessment.

As both the number of cases and the size of the awards associated with those cases increase, the commercial aspects of patents and other intellectual property become strikingly apparent.  Intellectual property is an extremely valuable commercial asset.  It is also an important potential liability.

Intellectual property has the ability to generate substantial revenue for its owners.  It can also dramatically alter the competitive environment by denying companies access to vital technologies and by requiring large payments for the right to use protected technologies.

With so much at stake in intellectual property litigation, it is important that the legal system associated with awarding and enforcing those rights receives the attention and resources it merits.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Copyright Office play vital roles in the intellectual property rights operations of the United States, and they thus have a profound impact on the economy.

Similarly, the federal courts are routinely called upon to evaluate complex competing intellectual property rights claims.  That function has a great impact on the U.S.economy.

Unfortunately, the entire intellectual property rights enforcement mechanism of the U.S. government is presently inadequately supported.  All of the key players in the intellectual property rights system, including the USPTO, the Copyright Office, and the federal courts should be recognized as critical components of the overall U.S. commercial and economic development efforts.  They should receive significantly more financial and other resource support in order to ensure that they can effectively perform their roles.  Creating and maintaining an effective and efficient intellectual property rights management infrastructure in the United States should be a high priority for the nation.