24th > December > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Via takes further stake in S3

Taiwanese chipset and microprocessor vendor Via has increased its stake in graphics company S3. That follows rumours a few days ago that S3 was the target of Via's attentions. Via has bought 10.8 million shares of S3 at $13.50 a share, with the ostensible reason being given that the deal is to "strengthen the partnership and collaboration" between the two companies. The Via stake in S3 now amounts to 15 per cent. Said Ken Potashner, CEO of S3: "The technology and IP available between our two companies have positioned us to aggressively compete in the value PC segment through the strategy of integrating our technologies." Just a few days ago, Intel agreed to license all of 3D Labs patent portfolio. S3 also has a cross-licensing agreement with Intel and the equity investment by Via is bound to further aggravate the chip giant. Intel has already embarked on a series of legal actions against Via and some of its subsidiaries, claiming that it has infringed some of its patents. ® See also Nvidia sues S3 in patent clash Intel grabs 3D Labs patent portfolio Via-S3 deal would make Intel dead grumpy
The Register breaking news

AMD sued over patent

Updated One of our readers seems to have turned up trumps over a legal action being taken against AMD over alleged patent violation. According to the reader, the patent in question (see original story below) is to do with a method for testing semiconductors during their manufacture. He points to this entry at at the US Patent Office which has the following abstract. "The present invention is generally related to a method and apparatus for accurately measuring the temperature of a surface and more particularly for the detection of hot spots on the surface of a semiconductor device due to fault-generated heat dissipation. "Liquid crystal materials have been used with particular benefit by designers and failure analysts of integrated circuits and other semiconductor devices. The liquid crystal material is applied to the surface of the semiconductor device and forms a nondestructive layer on the surface of the semiconductor which can be used to detect areas of high thermal dissipation by the semiconductor. These areas of high thermal dissipation can indicate areas on the semiconductor device which have failed or otherwise generate abnormal amounts of heat energy." And what a great lot our readers are. He explains: "Semiconductors are manufactured in layers. In order to monitor the process, there are several electrical tests done in line. Most processes will certainly do an e-test right after the creation of the transistors, and most likely at least after laying down the first metal layer. "Your e-test machine uses a "Wafer Prober" hooked up to an electrical tester. The tester provides the proper signals down the probers connectors, and energises the specific circuits being tested. The whole piece of equipment is topped by a multi-power microscope. "If you coat your wafers with "Liquid Crystal Display" film, and energise the circuits, any "Hot Spots" (ie: malfunctions) might cause the liquid crystal display film to "toggle" to black, and voila.... you could visually see it with the scope. It's an interesting technique, if you can set the film to the proper threshold to toggle." 21 December 1999: original story Chip company AMD is being sued over alleged patent infringement in the US. The case, filed against AMD by an individual, Peng Tan, was made earlier this month in the US district court in San Francisco. The case has been referred to Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero for his adjudication, under this statute. No details of which patent is in question were available, and AMD was unable to comment on the case at press time. When we receive details of which specific patent is allegedly infringed, we will update this story. ®
The Register breaking news

S3 damns Nvidia ‘negotating tactic’ lawsuit

S3 today slammed rival 3D graphics company Nvidia for launching legal action as a mere bargaining counter against S3's own lawsuit against its rival, launched in May 1998. An S3 spokesman described Nvidia's complaint that S3 has violated its intellectual property rights as "completely without merit", the standard line companies trot out when they're sued for patent infringement. However, S3 does have a point here. Nvidia is keeping details of its complaint very close to its chest, so far refusing to specify which technologies it believes S3 has ripped off and which S3 products contain said unlicensed knock-offs. So how S3 knows the complaint to be groundless is anyone's gues... All we know at this stage is that Nvidia is alleging five patents have been violated, but the company has yet to come clean and reveal which five of its 27 granted patents has been infringed. S3's case against Nvidia centred -- surprise, surprise -- on alleged patent infringement. The suit, which is due to go to court next February, centres on Nvidia's Riva family of 3D accelerators -- ie. all of them before its latest part, the GeForce 256 -- and their use of VGA controller circuitry capable of displaying 3D images in 2D windows and mixing together video and computer-generated images. Of course, while S3 has stacks more graphics related patents than anyone else, most of them were bought in and aren't the product of the company's own expertise which arguably goes against the spirit of the protection of innovation if not the law. ® Related Stories Via takes further stake in S3 Via-S3 deal would make Intel dead grumpy
The Register breaking news

Tosh, Microsoft thrashed over Windows notebook licence

An Australian end user deserves a fabled Register pin for winning a battle to get his money back for an operating system he didn't want. Geoffrey Bennett, a Linux fan, fought a long and sometimes acrimonious fight to make Toshiba refund A$110 because although he wanted the notebook, he didn't want the Microsoft operating system that came bundled with it. Bennett maintained that the Microsoft Licence Agreement that came with the notebook showed that if he didn't agree to the terms, Toshiba had to refund the money for the OS. But Toshiba wriggled and squirmed for months before executives at the company agreed to divvy up the money he was owed. Three times, a Tosh executive insisted that Bennett would have to return the entire machine for a complete refund. And three times, Bennett refused. Eventually Toshiba gave up and agreed to pay him the dosh for the DOS on his Tosh. The full, and in places very funny saga, is on Bennett's site, which you can find here. ®