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Transmeta IP sold to not-patent troll

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Transmeta - the low-power chip supplier that tried to make netbook silicon before there was a market for netbooks - is officially dead and picked apart. The company's $255m acquisition by Novafora closed late last week and a good chunk of the its patent portfolio jumped to the IP licensing firm, Intellectual Ventures.

IV said it grabbed 140 US patents and "a substantial number" of pending patent applications issued in the US and abroad. The firm intends to license the technology to other vendors on non-exclusive terms. IV is run by former Microsoft chief technology officer-turned-IP collector, Nathan Myhrvold. It claims to have more than 2,000 patents in the semiconductor field.

Now certainly the reader is expecting to see the label "patent troll" applied here. We hesitate only on the basis that IV hasn't yet filed a single infringement lawsuit. Maybe you can swing a club and live under a bridge and still be a respectable fellow. Maybe. They've even gone out of their way to claim they aren't trolls (PDF). But we've got our eyes on you, IV.

Transmeta launched 2000 with lofty promises to radically change the market for low-power chips for mini notebooks. Alas, the whole thing was bungled despite raising millions in pre-bubble-bursted dot com venture capital and getting floods of media coverage. It gave up manufacturing in 2005 to concentrate on licensing its intellectual property to other chip makers – but obviously that didn't work out too well either.

Novafora, a venture capital-backed "video processor" firm, announced, it would buy Transmeta back in November.

According to the IP hand off announcement, the former Transmeta technology will take two routes. Novafora will use the patents it kept to improve its own proprietary designs, and IV will license its portion out, naturally. ®

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