Intel must pay $949 million to patent troll VLSI for an outdated chip patent

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 190   +92
Staff
What just happened? In its ongoing battle against VLSI, a now-defunct manufacturer of custom integrated circuits (ICs), Intel must pay a hefty fine for infringing a patent granted almost two decades ago. A federal jury in Texas has once again ruled in favor of VLSI, a non-operating company belonging to private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, ordering Intel to pay $949 million. It's a sum the Santa Clara corporation doesn't want to spend for a technology that doesn't even work with their latest computer chips.

The patent in question was acquired by VLSI from Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors NV, and according to the patent troll attorney it would cause "millions and millions of infringements per second" within Intel's CPUs. The jury was convinced, and VLSI got the full amount of damages it requested.

Patent US7247552B2 covers a "technique for alleviating the problems of defects caused by stress applied to bond pads." The patented technology would improve the chip design before the actual manufacturing process, adding dummy metal lines to interconnect layers to increase the metal density of the interconnect layers.

In VLSI's view, the patent was still used by Intel for its Skylake and Cascade Lake CPU architectures, processors launched in 2015 and 2019, respectively. VLSI's patented technology, however, dates back to a 2005 application filing. The patent is still active and should theoretically expire in 2025.

According to Intel, the disputed technology isn't used by its CPUs at all; Skylake and Cascade Lake employ technologies developed in-house, Intel argued in court, and the VLSI patent wouldn't work with modern processors at all. Needless to say, the chipmaker wasn't pleased by the verdict and it will file an appeal.

The $949 million fine is yet another episode in the legal war between Intel and VLSI, with the latter operating only as an empty shell and a patent troll devoted to squeeze all the money they can from the former, still functioning company. In March, a Texas jury ordered Intel to pay VLSI more than $2 billion, while in April a second trial ended in favor of Intel for an alleged $3 billion patent violation.

Permalink to story.

 

nodfor

Posts: 333   +607
Tech firms rely on patents to keep prices high and limit competition
Seeing patent law used this way is actually kinda funny :D
 

Irata

Posts: 2,234   +3,898
This does not look like a patent troll case here. It‘s for actual technology (I.e. nothing like a ‚one click buy‘ button and Intel did seem to have used this technology in their manufacturing process.

If they did, they have to pay since they used the IP someone else spent resources to develop. Plain and simple.
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 1,502   +3,248
Interesting how Intel has to pay more to a defunct company that they didn't wrong than they did to AMD when they paid off OEMs to not use AMD.
I could be remembering wrong, but AMD settled and thats why it ended like that.

That said, I would love for AMD to reopen that case, because I have a weird feeling that Dell is still getting money from Intel to do not use AMD products on their high volume lines, the business line (Optiplex, Latitude and Precision).
 

wizardB

Posts: 256   +128
You are correct mostly but in this case, it is a technology that Intel used in previous generations of processors that they never paid for and made large profits with the full knowledge that they were stealing.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,355   +4,362
I could be remembering wrong, but AMD settled and thats why it ended like that.

That said, I would love for AMD to reopen that case, because I have a weird feeling that Dell is still getting money from Intel to do not use AMD products on their high volume lines, the business line (Optiplex, Latitude and Precision).
Nah, I don't think so. The reason is that if Dell were to shun EPYC in favour of Xeon, NOBODY would buy their stuff. HP/Cray would just bury them because they actually prefer EPYC over Xeon. Intel didn't make any profit last year from their Xeon side. If Dell was using Xeons, they would have.

This was one of the contributing factors to Dell breaking with Intel's illegal discounts. Michael Dell saw that his enterprise side was getting killed by Cray because Cray was willing to use the much more efficient AMD Opteron and that was outselling the Xeon by a considerable margin at the time.
 
Last edited: