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20 Japanese giants sue US processor patent holder

Tables turned on Patriot Scientific

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Almost two dozen Japanese electronics companies have together filed five lawsuits against US intellectual property holding company Patriot Scientific. The lawsuits ask the US District Court in Oakland, California to declare three patents held by Patriot to be invalid.

Patriot will be well-known to Register readers as the company that in January 2004 sued Sony, Toshiba, Matsushita/Panasonic, Fujitsu and NEC for alleging infringing its patent for a "high performance microprocessor having [a] variable speed system clock". The technology is detailed in US patent number 5,809,336.

The patent was filed in June 1995 and granted on 15 September 1998. Patriot wants damages "in excess of several hundred million dollars" from the five Japanese PC makers for their alleged infringement.

Essentially, Patriot said Intel processors were violating its intellectual property, but it chose to target five of the chip giant's customers. However, Intel was quick to sue Patriot, which proceeded to countersue, in February 2004. The following April, Patriot went on to issue infringement-alleging lawsuits against 150 more PC companies.

The case has been quietly bubbling ever since. In February 2005, Intel's arch-rival, AMD, made an unspecified investment in Patriot to license the technology and other patents. In October, Patriot handed the case over to Technology Properties Limited (TPL), a company with which it had earlier allied itself. Patriot abandoned its lawsuits against the Japanese vendors, and TPL sued all but Sony almost immediately afterwards, chucking in the alleged infringement of a couple of its own patents for good measure.

At the time, Patriot said TPL would have a better chance of prevailing in the case than it would. The case was moved from Oakland to the US District Court of Eastern Texas, presumably because TPL figured it was more likely to win there.

Indeed, Patriot chairman and CEO David Pohl this week said the "transparent objective of these declaratory judgment lawsuits is to have the infringement claims determined in the California court, rather than in the Texas court where the local rules of the court make it highly likely that the patent infringement claims will be brought to trial within about one year".

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, we'd say. If one party can pick the court most likely to deliver the verdict it's after, the other party has a right to try and have the case brought to a court they believe will yield a better result.

The new lawsuits ask the California court to address the allegations made in the Eastern Texas court, and to declare that the 20 plaintiffs have not infringed the three patents jointly held by Patriot, TPL and one Charles H Moore. Furthermore, the court is asked to invalidate those three patents. ®

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