Intel hit with patent lawsuit, EU antitrust raids

Intel is facing legal troubles on both sides of the Atlantic this month. A U.S. university research foundation has filed a lawsuit against Intel that alleges the processor maker violates one of its patents in Core 2-series processors. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (a.k.a. WARF), a non-profit research foundation tied to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is seeking unspecified damages from Intel and wants Core 2 chips taken off the market.

The patent at the heart of the issue, which was granted in July 1998 and is numbered 5,781,752 in the U.S. patent registry, pertains to a table-based prediction system for speculative execution. Its description reads:

A predictor circuit permits advanced execution of instructions depending for their data on previous instructions by predicting such dependencies based on previous mis-speculations detected at the final stages of processing. Synchronization of dependent instructions is provided by a table creating entries for each instance of potential dependency. Table entries are created and deleted dynamically to limit total memory requirements.

WARF claims it made repeated attempts to license the technology to Intel, including "meeting face-to-face with company representatives." However, it alleges that Intel went ahead and used the technology in its chips while basically ignoring the foundation. Although WARF says it is seeking to have Intel barred from selling infringing chips, this type of demand seems to be common in patent disputes. If the foundation manages to prove that the processors do infringe on its patents, it will in all likelihood attempt to score royalties from Intel—an outcome that ought to be more financially gratifying for both parties.

In related news, Intel is still knee-deep in antitrust issues in the European Union. Reuters reports that the European Commission conducted antitrust raids at Intel's offices in Munich, Germany as well as at "a number" of retailers that sell its products. The Commission says it carried out the raids because it believes the firms—both Intel and retailers—"may have violated EC (European Community) Treaty rules on restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position." Reuters says Intel also faces a closed hearing next month on charges that it has abused its dominant position to attempt to squeeze AMD out of the market.

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