Cornell wins $184 million award from Hewlett-Packard for patent infringement

After a two-week trial and six and a half years of litigation, a Syracuse federal court jury on June 2 found that Hewlett-Packard Corp. infringed on a Cornell patent for a computer instruction-processing technique invented by H.C. Torng, Cornell professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering.

The jury awarded damages of $184 million. Under the university's patent policy, the faculty inventor receives a share of royalties and related proceeds from commercial use of a patented invention. Torng, who retired from Cornell in December 1998 and now lives in California, will receive 25 percent of the net proceeds. He said in his trial testimony that he plans to give a large portion of his share to charity.

The trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Syracuse. A lawyer representing Hewlett-Packard (HP) said that the company intends to appeal the verdict. In the next month or two, the court also will consider additional claims raised by HP concerning Cornell's enforcement of the patent.

"Research universities like Cornell have a rich reservoir of intellectual property, including valuable patented discoveries produced by faculty for the public benefit," said university counsel James Mingle. "It is vitally important -- to the faculty, to Cornell, to other universities and to the public -- that this intellectual property be protected from unauthorized use. That's been the main motivation in Cornell's lengthy litigation against Hewlett-Packard. We are happy about the verdict, of course, and look forward to renewing the relationship Cornell has had with HP over many years."

Hewlett-Packard also released a statement saying it looked forward to continuing collaboration with Cornell.

Torng's invention enables microprocessors to increase processing speed by determining which instructions are not dependent on the results of others and allowing the processor to execute those out of order, allowing more instructions to be executed during the same computer clock cycle. Torng came up with the idea in 1982. The Cornell Research Foundation, which then managed the university's intellectual property, obtained a patent on the technique in 1989, designated as U.S. Patent No. 4,807,115.

HP claimed it had developed its own technology to achieve the same purpose, but the jury found that HP's technique violated the five claims in the patent that Cornell raised in the trial. The jury did not find, however, that the infringement was willful.

Lawyers for Cornell asserted that HP earned $36 billion from the sale of high-end servers and workstations that use the technology and asked the jury to award $575 million in damages. The jury arrived at the $184 million figure by applying a 0.8 percent royalty rate to HP sales totaling $23 billion.

The university may seek attorneys' fees, as well as interest on the $184 million calculated from the time the infringing products were sold, Mingle said.

Cornell is represented in the case by Edward Poplawski, Bryan Anderson and other patent lawyers from the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of the law firm Sidley Austin Brown and Wood, and by a Cornell team headed by Mingle that includes deputy university counsel Nelson Roth and associate university counsel Valerie Cross Dorn.

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