There is an undercurrent in patent law these days that litigation favors the defendant. Rather than contending infringement of a few claims of one patent, plaintiffs are now advised to assert multiple claims across several patents. After 35 U.S.C. § 101 challenges, IPR filings, and summary judgment motions, plaintiffs are lucky if they are left with a few claims of one patent to bring to trial. Analogies have been made that patent portfolios are like Swiss cheese.
But every so often, a patentee wins big, giving the viability of patent assertion campaigns a much-needed shot in the arm.
To that point, patent holder VLSI has won a whopping $2.175 billion jury verdict in the Western District of Texas. VLSI is the owner of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,523,373 and 7,725,759. Claim 1 of the '373 patent involves determining the minimum operating voltage of a memory and storing this value in non-volatile memory. Two voltage sources are provided, and the second is selected to operate the memory if the first is below the minimum value. Claim 14 of the '759 patent involves a programmable clock controller that can receive a request from a first device coupled to a variable clock frequency bus. The controller then changes the frequency of a high-speed clock that is used to control the clock frequency of a second device coupled to the bus as well as the bus itself. Both patents purport to reduce the power consumption of chips.
The jury found that Intel literally infringed claims 1, 5, 6, 9, and 11 of the '373 patent, and infringed claims 14, 17, 18, and 24 of the '759 patent under the doctrine of equivalents. The jury also found that this infringement was not willful and that Intel had failed to establish anticipation of '759 patent (the validity of the '373 patent was apparently not at issue).
All said, the jury found Intel on the hook for $1.5 billion due to its infringement of the '373 patent and $675 million for its infringement of the '759 patent. The main justification for damages of this magnitude is that Intel has sold billions of devices infringing the patents.
VLSI is a non-practicing entity, which Intel attempted to use against it at trial. These efforts fell on deaf ears, but along with the 10-figure sum is likely to drive the ongoing "patent troll" narrative.
This is the second largest patent infringement verdict ever, and it will be the largest if it holds. A $2.5 billion award to Idenix Pharmaceuticals in 2016 was overturned on invalidity grounds. Here, an Intel appeal is inevitable, so VLSI will not be counting its money any time soon.