IST Distinguished Lecture by CMU Portugal Director José M.F. Moura

After being awarded on September 13th the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by Universidade de Lisboa at a Ceremony held at Técnico, Professor José M.F. Moura shared his life experience and knowledge at a Lecture held at Técnico. 

On September 16th under the title “Uma história que se tece detetando dados em discos rígidos”/ “A story that weaves itself by detecting data on hard drives” the Philip L. and Marsha Dowd University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University shared the story around one of his inventions and won over the audience with his expertise.

The lecture opened with a brief introduction from Técnico President Rogério Colaço and the audience included numerous colleagues, former students and admirers of the Carnegie Mellon University faculty member.

During his speech, the CMU Portugal Director shared the story behind one of his inventions and patents, going beyond the most technical details focusing on the context in which it emerged and sharing the contours of the seven years of litigation in U.S. Federal courts around this technology.

José M.F. Moura guided the audience through a timeline starting in the early 1990s when he was part of a CMU team that, with support from the US National Science Foundation, set to develop in ten years a hard disk drive that increased by two orders of magnitude (a factor of 100) the magnetic recording density – meaning that, in the same volume, it became possible to store 100 times more data.

José M.F. Moura’s part of the deal was to come up with a detector, i.e., the contraption that accurately read those bits recorded in ever-small magnetic domains that became the PhD thesis of his student Alek Kavcic. In 1997, CMU filed a provisional patent on the Kavcic-Moura design with the US Patent Office. Two patents were issued in the early 2000s. 

The technology of these two patents is now used in more than three billion hard disk drives in 60% of all computers sold in the world. Those patents were the subject in 2016 of a $750 million settlement between CMU and a semiconductor manufacturer in the largest-ever settlement in the IP area.

During his talk, José M.F. Moura explained what he learned from the various interactions with industry and with CMU, from the main steps in the seven years litigation in US Federal courts, to the largest ever verdict in information technology (roughly, US$ 1.5Billion (thousand millions), and finally, in 2016, the US$750M settlement between CMU and a chip designer, the largest intellectual property (IP) settlement ever. 

At the end of the Lecture, Isabel Ribeiro, Vice-president of Técnico for Administrative Modernization, thanked Professor José M.F. Moura for sharing this story in public for the first time. 

More at Técnico Website and at the Institution Youtube