VIA and Intel settle patent disputes

In a move that, at first blush, seems likely to restore some of VIA's prominence in the chipset market, Intel and VIA agreed to drop their pending litigation against each other. From the press release:
SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 7, 2003 - Intel Corporation and VIA Technologies, Inc. have reached a settlement agreement in a series of pending patent lawsuits related to chipsets and microprocessors. The agreement encompasses 11 pending cases in five countries involving 27 patents.

Under terms of the settlement both companies will dismiss all pending legal claims in all jurisdictions. The companies also entered into a ten-year patent cross license agreement covering each company's products. As part of the agreement Intel granted VIA a license to sell microprocessors that are compatible with the x86 instruction set but not pin compatible or bus compatible with Intel microprocessors.

Intel further agreed for a period of three years, not to assert its patents on VIA bus or pin compatible microprocessors. Intel also granted VIA a four year license to design and sell chip sets that are compatible with the Intel microprocessor bus and agreed not to assert its patents on VIA or its customers or distributors on such chip sets for a fifth year. The agreement will be royalty bearing to Intel for some products.

This deal seems to clear the way not only for VIA chipsets, but processors, as well, including VIA's forthcoming P4-compatible CPU—at least temporarily.

I have to wonder how much leeway this agreement will give VIA in the chipset market. Intel has been squeezing "partners" like SiS with requirements to get new licenses every time a bus clock frequency changes. By standing up to Intel in court, VIA may well have secured itself more freedom to operate. I wish I knew more about the royalties, though.

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