Semiconductor company Marvell Technology Group Ltd. has been ordered by a federal jury in Pittsburg to pay $1.17 billion to Carnegie Mellon University.

The two patents at issue relate to technology for increasing the accuracy with which hard drive circuits read data from high-speed magnetic disks. The jury not only found Marvell infringed the patents, but knowingly did so. The wilful infringement means the judge could choose to further increase damages.

The award, which comes amid a surge in patent litigation around the world, is one of the largest ever in a US patent case. It is even higher than the $1.049 billion awarded to Apple in its battle with Samsung in August this year. There were only two other cases with larger damages. In 2007, Microsoft was ordered to pay Lucent Technologies $1.52 billion, and in 2009, Abbot Laboratories was ordered to pay Centocor Ortho Biotech $1.67 billion. However, both were later overturned.

Not surprisingly, Marvell says in a statement that they will seek to overturn the verdict on "strong grounds". US juries tend to hand out extremely high damages which are later reduced on appeal. However, under trial rules, the damages could be tripled if the verdict is upheld on appeal.