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Intel sued for Pentium patent infringement

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Another punch was thrown yesterday in the intellectual property scrap between Intel and Patriot Scientific when Patriot said it has countersued the chip giant in response to Intel's own legal action, filed earlier this month.

The countersuit escalated tensions by alleging that Intel's Pentium family of processors violate a key Patriot patent.

Intel's lawsuit came a month after Patriot sued five of its customers. Patriot, which develops 32-bit Risc chips, filed complaints against Matsushita, Sony, Fujitsu, Toshiba and NEC in January, claiming products from all five violate US patent 5,809,336, which it holds.

Patent 5,809,336, entitled 'High performance microprocessor having variable speed system clock', covers "the means used by the microprocessor industry to increase the internal operating speed of modern microprocessors", the company said.

The patent was filed in June 1995 and granted on 15 September 1998. For the five manufacturers' alleged infringement, Patriot wants damages "in excess of several hundred million dollars".

Intel's response was filed on 2 February, and asks the court to declare that the chip giant has not infringed patent 5,809,336. Chipzilla also wants the original Patriot suit to be suspended and for Patriot to be prevented from suing any more of its customers on the same grounds.

Patriot's response demands that neither the suspension nor the ban be implemented. The countersuit also alleges that Intel has also violated patent 5,809,336. According to Jeff Wallin, Patriot's President and CEO any microprocessor "operating at speeds above 110-120MHz may be in violation of portions of our patent portfolio" - and that includes the Pentium family, the company claims. Worse, it says, that infringement induces others to infringe.

Patriot is seeking a jury trial, unspecified damages for "wilful, intentional infringement" and an injunction against further infringement.

Will it get them? Maybe, but we doubt it will get that far. After much toing and froing, both sides will, we suspect, agree to an out-of-court settlement centering on a deal that will give each firm access to the other's intellectual property. Certainly, that's how many of these kinds of cases are resolved. We will watch the fight's progress with interest. ®

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