Via files suit against Apple for patent infringement

Well, this afternoon has certainly been eventful. After the shakeups at HP and AMD, we now have news that Via has filed suit against Apple for patent infringement. The press release is compact, so I'll give you the whole thing here:

Taipei, Taiwan, 22 September, 2011 - VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient x86 processor platforms, today announced it has taken legal action against Apple Inc., filing a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and the US District Court of Delaware for patent infringement by Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV product lines, and associated software.

"VIA has built up an extensive IP portfolio consisting of over 5,000 patents as a result of significant investments in world class technology research and development," commented Wenchi Chen, CEO, VIA Technologies, Inc. "We are determined to protect our interests and the interests of our stockholders when our patents are infringed upon."

The patents at issue cover microprocessor functionality featured in Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV devices, namely:

· US Patent No. 6253312, Method and apparatus for double operand load,

· US Patent Nos. 6253311 & 6754810, Instruction set for bi-directional conversion and transfer of integer and floating point data.

If you're scratching your head over why this is happening, let's see if we can connect the dots for you.

Start with the fact that Via's CPU subsidiary, Centaur, has some pretty fundamental patents on microprocessor technology. Those patents have been good enough to force Intel into granting Via an ongoing license to its x86 instruction set architecture. Next, consider that Via is run by Wenchi Chen, one half of the power couple behind handset maker HTC. Via even sold is S3 Graphics business to HTC earlier this year, moving things around while keeping them in the same family. Finally, recall that Apple filed suit against HTC for patent infringement a while back.

In all likelihood, this is, in a roundabout way, a countersuit—from a holder of some pretty strong, fundamental technology patents. Apple may have turned over the wrong rock in its legal assaults. This one should prove interesting to watch!

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