April 3, 2009

Judge Lowers Amount H.P. Owes Cornell

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U.S. District Judge Randall Rader overturned a previous jury decision when he ordered Hewlett-Packard to pay Cornell $53.5 million in a lawsuit that the University filed against the company for infringing Cornell’s patent on a data processing unit in January 2002. Despite the $53.5 million Cornell is due to receive, the University planned on receiving $184 million from the lawsuit following a jury’s decision in June 2008.
The dispute was over an innovative data processing unit — developed by a Cornell researcher in the late 1980’s — that was capable of performing multiple functions at once, unlike its predecessors. The processor, which was issued a patent in 1989, enabled computers to function faster and more effectively.
Cornell alleged that H.P. used this processor in products that they sold and that the University was entitled to a significant portion of the company’s earnings for these sales. Hewlett-Packard countered that they never did infringe on Cornell’s copyright and that they had indeed invented their own device.
Though Judge Rader significantly reduced the amount owed to Cornell, in awarding Cornell the money, he affirmed the court’s original verdict that H.P. did violate the University’s copyright. Tommy Bruce, vice president for communications and media relations, echoed this sentiment.
“On the merits of the law [and] on the merits of the courts,” he stated, “we are delighted that the appeals process confirmed the decision of the trial and confirmed that Cornell was due damages.”
In a case that has gone on for nearly eight years, Cornell’s team of lawyers will now need to decide whether or not to appeal the case further to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Jim Mingle, the University’s counsel and lead lawyer on the case, explained that they would need to weigh all of their options before making any decisions. Yet, he was pleased with the trial’s general outcome.
“Seldom do universities sue a major company for infringement,” Mingle said. “And even more seldom do they prevail.”
Hewlett-Packard was unable to be reached for comment.