Real3D dead – Intel buys bones

Graphics company closed, extensive 3D patent portfolio sold to Chipzilla

Graphics specialist Real3D has collapsed, though since the dust has yet to settle, it's proving rather difficult to see the state of the body. Real3D's parent and 70 per cent shareholder Lockheed-Martin last week shut the company down, and sold the remains to Intel, which owned 20 per cent of the stock. SGI owns just under ten per cent, but this may actually now be owned by Nvidia, following its deal acquire all of SGI's graphics development resources. Real3D developed Intel's lacklustre 740 graphics technology. That Lockheed-Martin would want to get rid of Real3D is clear from the industrial giant's statement of 27 September, when it said that under its current restructuring programme, it would divest itself of "non-core" business. That said, Real3D wasn't one of the eight companies specified, but in any such strategic and organisational review with a view to streamlining the business by cutting staff, Real3D could easily be added to the list of non-core activities, and this is clear what has happened. Non-core Real3D may have been, but it owns a stack of 3D graphics technology patents, and that appears to have been what interested Intel. Chipzilla also seems to have picked up some of the company's staff, although it has brought them on board as contractors rather than full employees, which suggests this is more of a goodwill gesture. Other staff, according to email 'zine The Wave Report, have been cherry-picked by ATI, which is ironic given Real3D's attempt to sue ATI last June over alleged patent infringement and, more particularly, misappropriation of trade secrets. The patents in question were originally assigned to GEC, and presumably were later acquired by Martin Marietta upon their merger. Finally they ended up with Real3D when it was spun-off from Lockheed as an independent company 1997, two years after Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta. Whether the case will continue now that Real3D appears to be no more, remains to be seen. Given Intel's vigorous legal team, we suspect it will, doubly so since it would be a handy favour for S3, currently Intel's favourite 3D graphics company and longtime ATI arch-rival. An Intel spokesman confirm the acquisition of the patents, but was unable to comment on the possible legal outcomes of the deal. ®

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