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Transmeta Sues Intel for Patent Infringement 161

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the easy-advertising dept.
Cr0w T. Trollbot writes "Today Transmeta filed suit against Intel for patent infringement. From the article: 'The suit [...] alleges that Intel infringed upon ten of Transmeta's patents. The patents cover computer architecture and power efficiency technologies.' Transmeta offered a low-power x86 processor until last year which used Transmeta's vaunted 'code morphing' software."
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Transmeta Sues Intel for Patent Infringement

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  • Go figure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:28PM (#16401575) Homepage Journal
    When the chips are down, ( no pun intended ) and your business model is going up in a fireball.. sue someone!
  • by WilliamSChips (793741) <full...infinity@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:28PM (#16401581) Journal
    I thought that they filed bankruptcy or something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bing Tsher E (943915)
      It's kind of ironic that the company vaunted and praised so vigorously for employing Linus now appears to have become a 'Patent portfolio operation.'
      • You said it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by BeeBeard (999187) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @07:15PM (#16402145)
        From the article:

        "Last year, Transmeta laid off 67 employees in a restructuring plan aimed to focus more heavily on IP and the phase out its less profitable processors." (emphasis added)

        Patent portfolio operation?!? Whatever do you mean?? ;-)
        • Re:You said it (Score:5, Informative)

          by cerelib (903469) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @09:23PM (#16403337)
          Transmeta wanted to do something new. They did serious research to develop a different kind of product, but they were never able to find enough business. The market was not ready for what they were selling and they did not have the power to make it into something amazing. What they are left with is patents on research that they funded. Just because they do not have the ability to compete in the market right now does not mean they should have to give up all of their work. If you invented something, but didn't have the capital or even motivation to sell it, would you be okay with everyone else being able to make money from your invention? I have not investigated Transmeta's claims, but low-power chips were their whole business and that seems to be what Intel is killing for now. This leads me to believe that they might actually have a case. On the surface, this seems like a completely appropriate use of the patent system.
          • by arivanov (12034)
            Ahem, the power savings tech which Intel is now showing and purporting to come from unauthorised "Intel Israel skunkworks" rings a bit hollow to me. You can get a feature or two out of skunkworks, but not an entire CPU that breaks away from every single Intel x86 design tradition. In addition to that if the design center in Israel was so successfull why the f*** is intel pumping new money into its Indian disaster.

            One portion of the organisation delivers the most amazing CPU Intel has done since the 8086 whi
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Yes. Innovation is 1% inspiration (or ideas) and 99% perspiration, or work. Ok, Transmeta did create some really cool CPUs, but in the long run they just didn't cut it, and so why should the now be able to sit back and say "but those were our ideas, boohoooo"?

            Ideas should be free. If Transmeta doesn't create any products anymore, why shouldn't anybody else be able to do it? And even if Transmeta was still creating products, why should that exclude others from using good ideas in their products too? "In
            • by cerelib (903469)
              Intellectual property is what keeps capitalism going. If a small research firm invented a new drug that many people wanted they should be able to patent the idea and sell it to other large companies for production. In the same sense, if Intel wanted to use what Transmeta invented, then they should have to get it from Transmeta. Without protection for intellectual property, large companies would control everything and those small companies(who tend to do most of the innovation in this world) would have no ch
              • by joto (134244)

                If a small research firm invented a new drug that many people wanted they should be able to patent the idea and sell it to other large companies for production.

                So if Bertram Hansen Inc made a cure for hiv *and* cancer, and wanted $200000 per cure in patent fees, you'd think that was right? Because it kept capitalism going?

                Without protection for intellectual property, large companies would control everything and those small companies(who tend to do most of the innovation in this world) would have no chan

          • If my company had demonstrated is not good at doing business, at least I would like it to benefit science and the advancement of knowledge.

            If you fail to sell true innovation then you should allow, even help, others to do so.
          • by joto (134244)

            The market was not ready for what they were selling and they did not have the power to make it into something amazing.

            Translation: What they created, wasn't really great, not even good enough for competing in a free market.

            Just because they do not have the ability to compete in the market right now does not mean they should have to give up all of their work.

            Ehrmm, yes it does. If you don't have the ability to compete in the market, you should go bankrupt like everyone else. Or do you want to have som


    • I thought that they filed bankruptcy or something.

      Even worse... FTA:


      Last year, Transmeta laid off 67 employees in a restructuring plan aimed to focus more heavily on IP and the phase out its less profitable processors.


      I, for one, welcome our new IP troll overlords.
  • Sigh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pete6677 (681676) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#16401591)
    Is anyone else getting a little sick of these patent infringment stories? Its now common knowledge that you can't build anything in the United States without some IP leech suing you, so is this really even a big deal anymore? We all know the eventual result of this: either more products will be invented in other countries or the only things that will be made in the U.S. anymore will be by companies that have a large legal budget, which I'm sure Intel does. Stories like this will become small insignificant news.
    • by Khyber (864651)
      Guess you never checked their patent portfolio. Quite a bit of their shit comes from before the USPTO got seriously broken. They may actually have a legitmiate case, since some of their still-patent-granted technology is just now coming into play in the market through other US competitors. Unless Intel bought/licensed this stuff, they've got a pretty legitimate case. IINAPL, as a disclaimer.
    • GPL3: now more than ever.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by orasio (188021)
      The issue is patents.

      The guys a Transmeta are doing the best use of patents I can think of.

      They failed at developing a product, for more than just technological reasons, and now they want to get paid for stuff they invented and other people supposedly implemented.

      That is how patents are supposed to work, there is no failure.

      The problem is that patents as a whole, even when they do what they are supposed to do, and nobody abuses the system, just don't work well for the community.

      It's would be great that Tran
    • .... why Intel is moving research and development to India....

      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/11/132323 9&from=rss [slashdot.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Transmeta has alleged this before, as have other companies. It's nearly unavoidable in the technology business that your invention will have something in common with theirs. It all comes down to a lot highly paid patent lawyers and engineers showing diagrams in court and vouching for when they designed what, if it even makes it into court.

    Most likely outcome: settlement involving a small amount of money and a cross-licensing agreement. No judge in their right mind would grant an injunction against shi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Amouth (879122)
      to be fair.. why don't they go after AMD too.. why not . more money right?

      the only thing i can think is that if i remember right.. Intel owns the ARM .. which does have alot in comon when Transmeta.. but something else makes me think they they had something todo with that..

      or i am wrong.. not sure
    • ...and remember: all you have to do is find one expert who testifies that the idea sure would have been obvious to him at the time. Or find one mention of a sufficiently similar idea in the proceedings of some sufficiently obscure conference in Poland. 99% of patents can be busted if you throw enough money at it, and many large companies would rather spend $100k on busting your patent than $10k on on licensing it...
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:32PM (#16401637)
    ...but now, they just seem like patent trolls.


    FTA: "The complaint charges that Intel has infringed and is infringing Transmeta's patents by making and selling a variety of microprocessor products, including at least Intel's Pentium III, Pentium 4, Pentium M, Core and Core 2 product lines."

    They sure are going back a long ways...

    FTA: "Last year, Transmeta laid off 67 employees in a restructuring plan aimed to focus more heavily on IP and the phase out its less profitable processors."

    So they went out of the business of actually making anything (presumably because their products were not competitive in the market place), so NOW they turn to their IP to make any money. I really don't know if they've got a valid case or not, but they certainly seem to be trolling.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by imboboage0 (876812)
      Pentium III? IANAL, but isn't this defined as failing to defend your patent in the first place?
      • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:40PM (#16401761)
        Trademarks fade if you do not agressively pursue violators (like how you search google for something, not "google for something").

        Patents last the term and do not fade in that way. They are full effect for 20 years.

        Copyrights fade 70+ years after you die (and getting longer...).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tomstdenis (446163)
          Damages change with the circumstances. If you can't prove they knowingly violated your patents sometimes all you can win is an injuction and court costs.

          Usually for smaller companies patent issues never even get into courts, e.g.

          IP company: Stop using our IP
          Victim: Okies.

          Tom
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Christian Smith (3497)

            Damages change with the circumstances. If you can't prove they knowingly violated your patents sometimes all you can win is an injuction and court costs.

            An injuction, which would stop Intel selling their current processors. They would also have to negotiate a license for the past processors that violate the patent, which would result in considerable back pay.

            As Intel would never consider stopping selling their processors, they are most likely to license the patent from Transmeta, which is much $$ for the vo

          • I think in this case they are praying that it does not go to trial, they are looking at something deeply embedded in the CPUs (my assumption based on going back to PIII, and inclusive of P4 and PM, all different). They are simply hoping Intel will open the checkbook and ask: How Much?

            My money is on Intel on this one. I bet they can show Prior Art*, even if not patented, which would basically guarentee them the ability to continue using the IP witout royalty.
            -nB

            * Or they will be able to show a logical and
          • Damages change with the circumstances. If you can't prove they knowingly violated your patents sometimes all you can win is an injuction and court costs.

            Knowledge is an element in whether or not the infringement was willful. If a court finds an infringement willful, damages can be trebled. Otherwise, knowledge that a competitor has a patent over a technology is irrelevant (though independent invention is useful if you want to argue obviousness). It's your responsibility as a business to avoid infringing u

        • Patents last the term and do not fade in that way. They are full effect for 20 years.

          Only if you pay the maintenance fees. I don't have the number at hand but something like 60% of all patents expire after 6 years, when the first maintenance fees are due. If it's not close to 60%, it's still a surprisingly large portion.

          • Eh it's poor taste to reply to yourself, but I did a teensy bit more research. It's actually 3.5 years till the first maintenance fees, and I can't find the statistic of what portion expires at the first fee date. Managing the fees of issued patents isn't my bread and butter.
        • ...., it leads to far to much confusion between copyright, trademarks and patents. Which are only similar in that they are designed to protect and grant rights over, intangible ideas. Personally I think that this confusion is the very reason businesses use the term "Intellectual Property" so much. Im sure they would love to be able to copyright things which are currently under the patent system (this is why software patents are bad, as software is already copyrighted), and enjoy that near century of governm
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Just because a business is going out, doesn't mean they lose patent protection.

      If you invent something and can't market it, but someone else does so, you have grounds for suit.

      It's not like they just filed patent hoping someone else would build it, which is a clear abuse of the patent intent.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @07:09PM (#16402091) Journal
      Focussing on IP is not necessarily a bad thing for a semiconductor company. ARM did it in the '90s. Building fabs is expensive. There is a huge market for cores that can be modified slightly and then fab'd as ASICs. A lot of mobile 'phones have an ARM9 core, for example. This is a design licensed from ARM, modified by someone else (e.g. TI, who add DSPs and some other things to the die) and then fab'd. It's cheaper to buy a general-purpose core from ARM than to design your own, especially since you can then guarantee it is ARM-compatible (and hence has compilers available for it).

      I don't know how long this business model will survive things like OpenCores - it's even cheaper to download the HDL for a chip for free than buy it - but they may well be successful for a while.

      • There's a big different IMO between voluntary IP licensing and patent trolling. Although at least Transmeta isn't threatening any graduate students.
      • "Focusing on IP" has nothing to do with being a fabless chip manufacturer. Transmeta never had a fab line they owned in the first place. ARM, for example, produces a fine line of embedded procesor products, but owns no fabrication facilities. Most chip makers are actually fabless, because so few companies have the massive capital and/or economies of scale required to build and maintain modern fabrication facilities. Everyone else just rents facility time from companies with fabs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MikeBabcock (65886)
      How would you feel if you invented a high-efficiency engine design, failed to market it to any of the major auto-makers and as you were going bankrupt, Ford started producing something very similar and selling it without giving you credit?

      This has happened many times in history and the 'Ford's in those cases have had to either pay up to the inventor or had really good lawyers.

      That's what patents are for. Why don't you go file a few of your own instead of being pissed for no reason?
      • This is true in some cases, but look a little deeper into THIS case. Transmeta is sueing based even on very old Intel technology. It is difficult to see how they could prove that Intel stole thier IP. I'm not really pissed for no reason, I used to own a Crusoe based device, and your ridiculous rhetorical question does not foster intellectual discourse here ("Why don't you go file a few of your own instead of being pissed for no reason?").
      • You could sign an airtight contract with Ford before showing them your goods, forbiding them, amongst other things, to come with a similar product to the market for at least x years after your demonstration.

        If somebody else came with a similar device on his own, society should not be punishing them, they should be encouraged for independent innovation.

    • While Transmeta did form in 1997, it wasn't until 1999 (when the P3 was already a reality) that they said anything at all and it wasn't until 2000 that they announced anything.

      To me it just looks like pure greed, same as BeOS and MS. Come up with an idea, fail to think idea all the way through, fail at the market, blame someone else, sue them.
    • by topham (32406)

      It's the new business plan; use your employees to build up your IP portfolio, toss them and then make money from the IP.

      • by jasonditz (597385)
        New? There have been companies who were exclusively in the business of research for a long time.
    • Literally and figuratively. My Sharp Actius MM10 might have gotten just slightly hotter than my Powerbook -- hard to tell, because it was dead for months before I got the Mac.

      It might've been even cooler if it had been possible to bypass their "code morphing software" and natively compile VLIW code. As it is, this little sub-notebook was effectively an x86 PDA. It was insanely small -- 10" screen, about a half inch thick (the whole notebook, not just the screen). It could open completely flat -- unfold unti
    • by radtea (464814)
      So they went out of the business of actually making anything (presumably because their products were not competitive in the market place), so NOW they turn to their IP to make any money. I really don't know if they've got a valid case or not, but they certainly seem to be trolling.

      We know that "the marketplace" is frequently an impediment to new and better technology, with entrenched players having the ability to resist new entrants in a variety of ways. So-called predatory pricing and outright theft of te
  • by hurfy (735314) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:34PM (#16401669)
    "including at least Intel's Pentium III, Pentium 4, Pentium M, Core and Core 2 product lines."

    So, when was Pentium 3?

    They waited until they were no longer in the market to sue so they cant be counter sued as effectively. Surely they must have done something they could be sued for, go get them anyway. This just smells funny. If your IP is so great why couldn't they make salable product out of it?

    I think these IP lawsuits work like games...the one crying cheater loudest is probably the guilty one ;)
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``If your IP is so great why couldn't they make salable product out of it?''

      Maybe it has something to do with fear of wet feet (Transmeta? Never heard of. I'll stick with Intel)? Maybe Intel and AMD had contracts with computer manufacturers that prevented these manufacturers from incorporating Transmeta CPUs? Or maybe people simply didn't care for the product.

      None of these imply that their IP wasn't good, though.
    • by drsmithy (35869)

      So, when was Pentium 3?

      The first Pentium 3 was released to market in 1999.

      However, the Pentium 3 was little more than a warmed over Pentium 2. The Pentium 2 first hit in 1997.

      However, the Pentium 2 was little more than a warmed over Pentium Pro. The Pentium Pro was first available in 1995.

  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:37PM (#16401719) Homepage
    Transmeta offered a low-power x86 processor until last year which used Transmeta's vaunted 'code morphing' software.

    Quick, someone use this "code morphing" software on the mona lisa so we can find the Holy Grail!

  • It seems like everyone so far is poo-pooing the lawsuit.

    Has anyone considered that it might actually be possible that Transmeta really does have valid patents, and Intel really might be infringing them?
    • by Amouth (879122)
      it is posiable but.. if they are refrencing the P3 which was out along time ago.. and well not any more.. then they didn't bother to protect their patent.. now if it is a diffrent set for the Core cpu's then fine but don't bring up stuff that they didn't bother with.
    • Transmeta has a rather extensive patent portfolio, with many new ones granted this year.

      In addition, they've got a fair number of engineers working at both Sony and Microsoft, and an Efficeon CPU (with AMD branding) is the only certified processor for the FlexGo program.

      The history is that Transmeta has brought out some innovative low-power CPUs, but never seemed to gain any market traction at all.

      Yes, I think this case might just well have real merit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by clem.dickey (102292)
        > Transmeta has a rather extensive patent portfolio, with many new ones granted this year.

        Transmeta had several patents issued in 2006, but I don't see any *filed* this year.

        I see four filed in 2005, of which one has been issued.
    • Other people have claimed that the P3 is old and so they must have been using a submarine patent strategy, but it seems equally likely that, now they are focussing more on developing specific technologies for licensing than full CPU designs, they had a meeting with Intel that went something like this:

      Transmeta: Hey, want to license this power management technology?
      Intel: Maybe, how does it work?
      TM: Like this.
      Intel: Oh, we've already got something like that...
      TM: Umm... but we patented it ages ago.

    • And thus non patent has merit.
  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:43PM (#16401793)
    Link [theregister.co.uk].

  • I wonder ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by guysmilee (720583) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:46PM (#16401829)
    As a developer when i see a company do this ... I seriously quetion if I can refuse to participate in my companies work in pursuing patents for my work ... b/c if the company was to ever collapse (not being a business person) I could be crippling my own future at other employers ... imagine switching jobs and being your new company being sued by a "defunct" company you used to work for ...
    • by dfghjk (711126)
      you can quit.

      the good news would be that your new company would be an attractive enough target to sue.
  • Intel = Deep Pockets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:52PM (#16401907) Homepage
    Guess Transmeta is going after the biggest guy with the deepest pockets . . . seems a little hard to believe that AMD wouldn't be doing something similar to what Intel is doing (that Transmeta claims in infringing).

    If Transmeta scores a win against Intel, then maybe that could lead to licensing agreements with others that may be afraid that they would also lose in litigation. In the meantime, this is one time where AMD may be thankful that they don't have the largest marketshare and the deepest pockets in the CPU industry.

    • I wonder when the companies with the deep pockets would make an example of a troll by simply dragging out the case so long that the troll shrivels up. If you pay them off, then you may just be encouraging other trolls to try the same thing. IBM is the only one I can think of that is doing it this way. Unfortunately, either way, the lawyers are getting their money, but paying them off with a settlement every time seems to be encouraging this sort of thing.
    • by nuzak (959558)
      > seems a little hard to believe that AMD wouldn't be doing something similar to what Intel is doing

      AMD sells Transmeta's Efficeon chips, Transmeta licenses Hypertransport and x86_64 from AMD. They have no such coziness with Intel.

  • Um, hello? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tehSpork (1000190)
    Intel should just purchase Transmeta outright, between their engineering crew and patents it would be a smart move.

    Deffo would make more sense to me than the rumored purchase of nVidia. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cpm80 (899906)
      It sounds like a good idea on the surface, but not if you know *anything* about the stock market. I'm not a guru, but know enough to explain why Intel cannot afford Transmeta. When an entity acquires a certain percentage, somewhere arround 10%, of a public company they must file with the SEC. This usually causes the share price of the takeover target to increase significantly. Also, Transmeta has what's called a poison pill which in the event of a hostile take over attempt causes them to issues more sha
  • new business plan:
    1) form small company of engineers and scientists with good ideas but no idea how to implement them yet
    2) wait for big companies with the resources to actually implement some form of the patented ideas to do so
    3) sue, sue, sue
    4) profit
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wesley Felter (138342)
      Sorry, that business plan was patented by Lemelson [wikipedia.org] 30 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412)
        Not a problem - patents are only valid for 20 years!

      • by treeves (963993)
        Intersting. I didn't know about Lemelson, and while he didn't actually patent the business plan (who knows why - he already had over 600 patents! probably you should have benn modded funny as well as informative) his "scheme" relied on the long delay of the patent process, something I didn't consider.

  • This reminds me of SCO's tactics: "We have run out of business ideas, we cant seem to be able to make any money, we are headed straight for bankruptcy. Lets sue somebody big."

    And then later: "Oh wait we shouldn't have. Bankruptcy would have been so much better than the mess we are in now"

    Litigation as a business strategy isn't a good idea. You could get lucky like NTP in NTP Vs. RIMM. However the odds are not very good.

    I am pretty sure that Transmeta approached Intel and asked them to take out licenses
    • by jasonditz (597385)
      When Microsoft sued that Canadian kid "Mike Rowe" over his name, did you assume it meant Microsoft was running out of ideas? Or when Apple sued that rumorsite over the leaks? I'm not a fan of the patent system either, but Transmeta's got an actual business based around licensing the technology they've developed.

      The lawsuit is not "we wanted to license something to intel and they said no", the lawsuit is "we wanted to license something to intel, they said they didn't want to pay, but then used the technology
    • SCO are liars.

      Transmeta at least has real patents for device that they did introduce to the market and that they want to protect under the current, completely broken, patent system.
  • Code morphing sound a lot like a software embedded runtime cross compiler [webopedia.com] that works at the p-Code [wikipedia.org] level. In other words a JIT [wikipedia.org] interpreter that runs on a chip. In other words where's the innovation.

    If Intel merely utilized such methods to impliment "Code Morphing" then I don't think Transmeta should have a case. If they actually reverse engineered the Transmeta chip that would be a different matter. It wouldn't be the first time Intel was caught at it, according to experts at the time, the Xeon processor
  • by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @08:53AM (#16407543)
    Personally, I'm for closing the patent office, in an orderly fashion ... over time... but shutting the whole mess down. Personally, I don't think that Intellectual Property other than trademark is a viable concept in a technologically advanced world.

    It would seem that since Transmeta no longer makes CPUs, they are somewhat safe from the big gun defense in industrial patent wars -- being counter-sued for violating 116 Intel patents. But their patents can still be invalidated, and you can just bet that Intel will try.

    Still, though, this is all kind of stupid and it is a bit hard to see how anyone other than a few lawyers benefits from this sort of stuff. If a patent is a license granted by government for the public good, why are we still issuing the damn things when they apparently no longer promote the public good?

  • The elephant in the room that few seem to be noticing:

    The patent was authorized by the Constitution so that inventions would be shared and used by others, with reasonable payment to the inventor.

    These days, very few actually do that, especially in complex technical fields. If a company uses some idea, it's not because it went to the Patent Office and searched for good ideas to implement. They independently develop ideas - which may or may not have been patented by someone else. Or they draw ideas from th
  • All the comments I have read seem to focus on Transmeta being the bad guy when a short history lesson would reveal just how plausible this is. This is from memory so the details may be a little fuzzy but back in the day Compaq had a data bus called the Tri-Flex Architecture. They owned the IP and only used it in their high end server systems. Intel asked if they could have a look-see at the technology so their products would be "compatible" with the bus. Less than a year later several Intel MB designs start

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