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Appeals court favours Intel in chip patent case

A US federal appeals court has rejected a lower court's decision that Intel's Itanium processor infringes upon patents held by Intergraph. The case now goes back to the lower court for further examination.

The case revolves around patents that Intergraph holds related to parallel processing techniques. Intergraph sued Intel in 2001 claiming that Itanium infringes on two patents that specify a combination of hardware-based and software-based techniques for parallel instruction computing.

A court agreed with Intergraph in 2002, labelling Intergraph's patents "valid and enforceable" and finding that Itanium "literally infringes" upon those patents. Intel appealed against that decision the same year after failing to persuade the lower court judge to reconsider his decision.

However, yesterday, the Court of Appeals sided with Intel and the case now returns to the Texas court to determine if Itanium infringes on Intergraph's patents under the new definition.

Intel and Intergraph had entered into an settlement agreement before the original trial designed to cap potential damages. When Intergraph prevailed in the lower court, Intel agreed to pay Intergraph $150m and to do one of three things to stay an injunction against the Itanium processor. Intel could appeal the decision, pay Intergraph an additional $100m to license the patented technology, or redesign the Itanium processors.

The Intel decision does not have any effect on a separate lawsuit related to different patents that Intergraph filed against Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Gateway in 2002, Intergraph said.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service


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