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Intel, Dell sued over SSE, HyperThreading

Infringes our patents, claims plaintiff

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Dell and Intel found themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit alleging patent infringement this past Friday, courtesy of media processor company MicroUnity Systems Engineering.

MicroUnity alleges in a lawsuit filed with the US District Court in Marshall, Texas that certain Dell machines and Intel CPUs contain technology that it owns but without its permission. Seven patents are said to be violated this way.

The company did not provide specifics - it has been assigned 59 patents, according to the US Patent Office - but the alleged infringing technologies include Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) versions 1 and 2, and HyperThreading.

Dell is named as named as a correspondent in the case because it ships machines based on chips containing those two technologies. By implication, that means MicroUnity can extend the suit to almost all other PC vendors. Dell is named because it's one of the best-known PC makers. MicroUnity no doubt hopes that the suit will encourage lesser companies to license its technology.

MicroUnity may also attempt to extend the case to IBM and Motorola, and by extension those companies' customers, Apple in particular. IBM's POWER 5 processor is expected to offer Simultaneous Multi-Threading - the generic technique Intel brands as HyperThreading - and chips from both Motorola and IBM support AltiVec, Motorola's SIMD engine and the equivalent of SSE. Later versions of AMD's 3D Now! technology, touted for its SSE compatibility, may also infringe MicroUnity's IP.

Without a sight of the seven specific patents, it's hard at this stage to judge the validity of MicroUnity's claims, or whether they could extend to other chipmakers than Intel.

Intel's Pentium processor is already being challenged in the courts. Patriot Scientific is sueing the chip giant for allegedly infringing on its SpeedStep-like dynamic clock frequency technology. ®

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