Microprocessor giants settle with Patriot Scientific

NEC, Panasonic, and Toshiba settle patent case, while AMD and Intel still in court on unfair business practices suit

Patriot Scientific and TPL Group, co-holders of the Moore Microprocessor Patent Portfolio [MMPP], announced Tuesday that they have settled their suit for patent infringement with JVC, NEC Electronics, Panasonic, and Toshiba.

The suit revolved around clocking technology used in most microprocessors since 1994 and attributed to Chuck Moore.

The details of the settlement were not revealed, but the patent holders said the settlement includes the licensing of the technology to the defendants [above].

After some initial wrangling between Patriot Scientific and TPL back in 2005, both companies joined forces to file suit against microprocessor companies using the technology. The list of companies using MMPP includes every major chip manufacturer in high tech and in consumer electronics.

"Patriot bought the IP and started looking at everybody's chips and discovered, lo and behold, almost everybody is using this particular technology," said Nathan Brookwood, principal at Insight 64.

Patriot is what is known in the industry as a patent troll, added Brookwood, mainly because it did not create the patent but rather bought the patent and then went out, trolling, to discover who might be in violation of it.

Previously, Patriot and TLP settled with AMD, Intel, and Fujitsu among others.

Few companies, if any, remain to settle with Patriot and TPL.

In a far more significant suit among microprocessor giants, plaintiff AMD's suit for anti-competitive business practices against Intel is currently in the discovery stage with an agreed-upon trial date set for April, 2009.

In discovery, the defendant must produce any and all information, including electronically created documents, such as emails, that the court considers relevant to the case.

According to a news story in InfoWorld on March 12, 2007 Intel admitted that some "internal e-mails that may be important to the case were missing as a result of errors."

Recent court rulings have not looked favorably on companies that cannot produce relevant e-mails.

In Zubulake v. UBS Warburg, the judge instructed the jury that it was legitimate to presume that the information Warburg could not provide due to lost backup tapes and e-mails was probably damaging to the company's case. Zubulake was awarded US$20 million.

Started in 2005, the cast has been slowly dragging its way through the courts.

As reported back then in InfoWorld, AMD accused Intel of monopolistic practices in the PC market by coercing customers to use its products rather than AMD's.

Among the illegal practices cited by AMD against Intel were a variety of tactics to limit AMD's growth in the market by paying retailers and system OEMs not to sell or build systems with AMD chips.

Earlier this year, the European Commission notified Intel that based on its monitoring of Intel's business practices, the EC believes Intel was in violation of European Union monopoly law.

If Intel loses the case, said Brookwood, it would of course have to cease the practices that AMD alleges are over the top for a company with the market share the size of Intel's.

More damaging, however, could be the court dollar award if AMD is able to prove it has been economically damaged to the tune of X billions of dollars by Intel practices.

AMD also claims that consumers have been damaged for billions of dollars over the past decade. If AMD wins, a class action lawsuit could also be in the offing.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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