Via ups the Intel ante

Via Technologies has hit back in its war with Intel by issuing the chip giant with lawsuits relating to patent infringement, fair...

Via Technologies has hit back in its war with Intel by issuing the chip giant with lawsuits relating to patent infringement, fair trade law violations and destruction of Via property.

The action, which comes just two days after Intel filed similar charges against its Taiwanese rival, alleges patent infringement in Intel's Pentium 4 processor and companion 845 chip-set.

Richard Brown, a spokesman for Via, said: "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."

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 an escalation of what had been a battle of words between the two companies prior to 7 September. Current chip-sets from Intel for its Pentium 4 processor support only Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory (RDRAM). But the company has said it will launch a new chip-set, the 845, later this year, which will support the much cheaper Double Data Rate Synchronous DRAM (DDR SDRAM).

Via has already released its own chip-set, the P4X266, which supports DDR, but has not obtained a licence 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 7 September by Intel allege that 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 had separately begun litigation against Intel alleging violations of Taiwan's fair trade laws and the wilful destruction of Via property by Intel representatives and employees.

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

"Intel has violated the fair trade laws 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."

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 held in Taipei in June.

"It might sound a little bit petty but it is clear vandalism of our property," added Brown. "If you had a bunch of kids pulling down posters or signs from outside shops in shopping malls then that is regarded as vandalism.

"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 be reached for comment.

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