Via-Cyrix deal all about patents

The mystery is in the history

Analysis We first met Jerry Rogers, an ex-TI employee, just before he had the go-ahead from his investors to launch a new type of chip company, Cyrix. Cyrix, he explained over a beer or two in bar at an ETRE conference, had a completely new way of designing microprocessors that was absolutely fabless. His company, he said, would be able to design leaner and faster microprocessors and regardless of Intel's grip on the market, was not in the slightest bit worried about patents. We saw Rogers a few years later at his HQ in Richardson, Texas, and he was proud to wave his hands at the patents Cyrix had won. He was also proud to show that whatever Intel's efforts with its so-called "profit and loss" legal department, he had overcome the chip giant. Perhaps Jerry was a tad too ebullient for Cyrix' shareholders but not long after that, he became one of the disappeared, and just a little while after, National Semiconductor in the shape of one Brian Halla, took over the x.86 wing. And now Cyrix has passed into the hands of little chipset company Via, which found the money to buy Cyrix as a standalone chip company. With the acquisition, Via will also acquire a mass of valuable patents, fought for by Cyrix' Rogers against Intel so many years back. The situation, as they say, has now changed and it is possible that tiny Via, in its turn, will be able to put pressure on mighty Intel. The cross patents are a legal tangle, and we are sure that Mr Thomas Dunlap at Intel, and a mass of other attorneys throughout corporate America, are sharpening their nibs, ready for the up-and-coming legal BeanFest. ®

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