Via hits back with countersuit against Intel

After finding itself on the receiving end of legal action Friday, Taiwan's Via Technologies Inc. blasted back at rival Intel Corp. Monday, filing lawsuits of its own alleging patent infringement, fair trade law violations and destruction of Via property.

Lawsuits alleging patent infringement by Intel in its Pentium 4 processor and companion 845 chip set were filed in Taipei on Monday and will be filed later in the day on Monday in the U.S., said Richard Brown, a spokesman for Via.

"Both of them contain intellectual property that is owned by Via and therefore they are infringing our patent and we are seeking legal redress for that infringement," he said.

Brown declined to detail the technology or patents that his company alleges are being infringed upon by Intel.

"We can't provide full details right now," he said. "On the chip set and CPU there are certain things that we have patented and when we file to the court officially that information will be revealed."

The lawsuits represent a stepping-up of what had been until Friday a battle of words between the two companies. To date, chip sets from Intel for its Pentium 4 processor support only RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory); however the company launched a new chip set, the 845, on Monday that supports much cheaper SDRAM (Synchronous DRAM) and plans to release a version of the 845 that supports DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate SDRAM) in January.

Via has already released its own chip set, the P4X266, that supports DDR, however the company has not obtained a license from Intel for the 400MHz bus used with the Pentium 4. The company maintains Intel does not have a patent that covers the bus.

The lawsuits filed on Friday by Intel allege Via's P4X266 and upcoming P4M266 chip sets violate five patents associated with Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Brown dismissed those lawsuits. "We don't, as far as we know, infringe on any patents and now we will vigorously defend the claims in court that Intel is making against us."

Via also said it has separately begun litigation against Intel alleging violations of Taiwan's fair trade law and the willful destruction of Via property by Intel representatives and employees.

Threats, allegedly made by Intel to computer makers aimed at stopping them using Via's chip set, are violations of the fair trade law, said Brown.

"(Intel has violated the fair trade law) through the threats it has made to its customers and our customers, telling them if they use the Via P4X266 chip set Intel will take certain actions against them. They have threatened legal action against the customers and also other sanctions, such as lack of availability of product. We have clear evidence that is being done," he said.

And, perhaps demonstrating the level to which the battle between these companies has sunk, Via is also seeking to prosecute Intel employees for allegedly taking down its posters and balloons at the Computex 2001 trade show that was held in Taipei in June.

"It might sound a little bit petty but it is clear vandalism of our property. If you had a bunch of kids who are pulling down posters or signs from outside shops in shopping malls then that is regarded as vandalism," he said. "This is criminal action and therefore we are filing criminal suits against the individuals that were involved or the ones that gave those instructions to destroy Via property."

Intel could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Martyn Williams

Computerworld

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