Intel hit with US$500M patent lawsuit

Toronto-based All Computers Inc. filed a patent lawsuit against Intel Corp. Thursday claiming that Intel’s Pentium II processor infringed upon a circuit design patented by All Computers.

The lawsuit seeks over US$500 million in damages as well as an permanent injunction against Intel, said Ed O’Connor, a lawyer with Levin & O’Connor in Laguna Beach, Calif., that is representing All Computers.

According to a copy of the complaint, Intel’s Pentium microprocessors infringe upon a patent for circuitry that controls the frequency of signals heading to microprocessors through a chipset.

The system clock in a chipset runs at a slower speed than the processor core clock, which is up to 3.4GHz in some of Intel’s chips, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report in San Jose, Calif. A phase lock loop is responsible for synchronizing the system clock and the core clock so the chipset works properly, he said.

In the past, the phase lock loop could only work with core clocks that were whole multiples of the system clock, but All Computers founder Mers Kutt developed a circuit design that allowed chip designers to run core clocks at fractional multiples of the system clock, O’Connor said.

Intel used Kutt’s circuitry in the Pentium II processor without a license, according to O’Connor. All Computers only recently realized that Intel had used the technology, he said.

The Pentium II has not been Intel’s primary desktop microprocessor for several years. All Computers believes the Pentium III processor also infringes on its patent, but it is not completely sure, O’Connor said. The company has yet to determine if the Pentium 4, Intel’s current desktop processor, infringes on the patent, he said.

Intel lawyers had not seen the lawsuit as of Thursday morning at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., and were therefore unable to comment on the lawsuit, said Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson.

All Computers has not released a product for about ten years, O’Connor said. The company sold a product called the All Chargecard in the 1980s that added memory to IBM Corp. PCs.

All Computers filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, which is known as a “rocket docket” to lawyers and legal observers, said Scott Marrs, an intellectual property lawyer with Beirne, Maynard & Parsons LLP in Houston.

“Rocket dockets” are known for their expedient processing of legal claims, Marrs said. The merits of this case probably won’t be fully known until the judge conducts a Markman hearing, or a reading of the patent and a definition of the terms within that patent as they apply to the products in this case, he said. The parties in the lawsuit can expect to reach the Markman hearing in about six months in a “rocket docket,” he said.

Intel has been involved in numerous patent lawsuits over the last few years. It recently settled outstanding litigation with Intergraph Corp. over patents related to the Itanium processor as well as Intergraph’s Clipper memory management technology. Last year, it settled several patent claims with Via Technologies Inc. over chipset designs.

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