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Intel busts Via over PC133 – this time it's personal

Skidmarks between Intel legal dept and San Jose as Chipzilla plays favourites with ALi

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Intel has gone legal again in its attempts to block shipments of Via Technologies' PC133 chipsets. Chipzilla, which filed against Via in San Jose in March owing to a clerical error, filed against it there again last week. Presumably experience of the March dummy run will help accelerate the legal process. Intel is generally held to be trying to slow the progress of PC133 while it either implements its own version or (unlikely one this) hauls its own favoured Direct Rambus out of the mire. Speaking in London last week Craig Barrett made it pretty clear that PC133, which is still officially ruled out, isn't really ruled out after all, but he's been making that pretty clear to anybody who'll listen for some time now. Here's one we prepared earlier. The latest Via lawsuit, which we're presuming won't get pulled again on Monday, claims breach of contract, false advertising, patent infringement and (choke) unfair competition. The row itself revolves around the licensing deal Intel did with Via last November. Since March Intel has been claiming that Via is in breach of this, and has warned off both Via and its customers. Intel contends that Via chipsets using a 133MHz front-side bus or 4X AGP aren't covered by the licence, and this is an obvious problem for Via's Apollo Pro133, which has a 133MHz bus and supports PC133 memory. There's clearly been some tough wrangling between Intel and Via since March, and the latest nuclear strike (which also includes the revocation of Via's P6 bus licence) means they've broken down completely - probably. Intel is not noted for the subtlety and sensitivity of its negotiating style, so there's still a slight chance the company is just dropping what it thinks of as a gentle hint. But by bizarre coincidence last week, Intel granted a licence to Acer Labs Inc (ALi) to sell chipsets compatible with its P6 bus architecture. As SiS has one of these as well, the move clearly puts pressure on, and potentially isolates, rival Via. So you might reckon that by taking pot-shots at Via while leveling the playing field between the other two, Intel is both encouraging Via to behave or lose business, and discouraging Via's two competitors from going chasing down the same road Via did. A sort of carrot and ICBM approach designed to keep the chipset boys in line while Intel re-tarmacs its roadmaps. By the way, we're tickled to note that Intel is of the view that Via manufacturing its chipsets at NatSemi, which has a broad-ranging cross-licensing deal with Intel, doesn't put Via in the clear. Humorously Intel recently went down in the Alabama courts against Intergraph, having claimed unsuccessfully that Intel's use of Clipper technology was OK because of, er, its broad-ranging cross-licensing deal with NatSemi. ®

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