On the heels of a $1.17 billion verdict in a patent case, a federal judge took a hard line with the losing party after it filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.
In December, Marvell Technology Group was handed a billion-dollar verdict by a jury that found it had willfully infringed on two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University, and Marvell asked the court to grant a new trial, citing misconduct on the part of CMU lawyers.
"Marvell, in throwing old and new grievances at the court under the guise of prejudice, is trying to do what it could not do at trial: convince the court to throw out this case and hope that a second time around will be more successful," U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer of the Western District of Pennsylvania said in her 31-page opinion. "The jurors, this court, and its staff, devoted four weeks of their life around the holidays to pay careful and thorough attention to the merits of the case, and unfounded, broad assertions of 'prejudice' or an 'inflamed' jury are insufficient to erase that result and mandate a new trial," she said.
Fischer noted that it was a four-week trial spanning November and December and running daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the court hearing arguments on objections and motions on both ends of the open-court trial hours. It produced 171 exhibits and a trial transcript that reached almost 4,000 pages. Each of the nine jurors was given a binder with the patents, the claim construction, initial instructions, a glossary of terms and pages for notes.
After hearing three hours of closing arguments, triple the length typically given for closings, on December 20, the jury deliberated for days, asking to read the expert reports, and opting to come back on the morning after Christmas, when it finally concluded its deliberations and entered its verdict, Fischer said.
Marvell had argued that CMU's counsel had acted improperly during closing arguments, saying that it had inappropriately discussed Marvell's lack of advice from counsel on the patented technology.
"The court held that the parties were limited to relying on the non-privileged facts," Fischer said. "The court did not allow either party to argue that an opinion of counsel was likely favorable or unfavorable. Neither party breached this ruling, as CMU only spoke to the lack of an opinion, which was a proper inference from the evidence presented at trial," she said.
Further, Fischer stressed that closing arguments are the proper place for lawyers to argue from the evidence and any inference that can properly be drawn from that evidence.
Also, she said, if Marvell objected to that line of reasoning from CMU, it should have asked for a ruling from the court when CMU first introduced those facts in its opening statement. But it didn't do that, she said.
"The second argument that Marvell finds objectionable, relates to Marvell's lack of response to CMU's letters," Fischer said. But, "in this court's estimation, it is likewise insufficient to support a new trial."
Marvell also argued that CMU had improperly introduced the idea of damages beyond a reasonable royalty by characterizing Marvell's actions as "breaking the chain of innovation," which it had been barred from doing in an order from the court.
"It is not reasonably probable that the jury was inflamed by the statement," Fischer said, noting also that she had given the jury instructions to disregard the brief statement.
"Marvell next challenges CMU counsel's reference to infringement being like 'identify theft' asserting it warrants a new trial," Fischer said.
She looked to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's 1988 opinion in Edwards v. City of Philadelphia, saying, "The Third Circuit has recognized 'that the propriety of put yourself in the [parties'] shoes' argument, as a tool of advocacy, is doubtful because it encourages the jury to depart from neutrality and to decide the case on the basis of personal interest and bias rather than on the evidence," but held that because the statement was stricken, it wouldn't have prejudiced the jury.
Similarly, Fischer dismissed Marvell's argument that CMU, as a Pittsburgh institution, had any kind of home-field advantage and that any apparent reference to numbers in the billions could have impacted the jury's final verdict.
(Copies of the 31-page opinion in Carnegie Mellon University v. Marvell, PICS No. 13-2501, are available from The Legal Intelligencer. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.)