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Intel

Intel Must Pay $150M for Patent Infringement 292

An anonymous reader writes "ExtremeTech is reporting that a U.S. district court has ruled that Intel's Itanium infringes Intergraph's intellectual property to the tune of $150 million in damages. The judge also cleared the way for Intergraph to request an injunction blocking sales of Itaniums and Itanium 2's."
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Intel Must Pay $150M for Patent Infringement

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  • AMD... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kissing Crimson ( 197314 ) <jonesy.crimsonshade@com> on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:30AM (#4430697) Homepage
    ...must be throwing a party right about now.
    • Re:AMD... (Score:3, Funny)

      by ggeens ( 53767 )

      I got an AMD ad when I read the article. Thought it was pretty ironic.

    • Re:AMD... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by io333 ( 574963 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:58AM (#4431341)
      The idiots that "play the market" always dump AMD too when Intel stock dives, 'cause Intel is A "bellweather" for the market. So no party.
      • But in the long run, AMD may be able to proceed ahead with better, faster processors while Intel is still trying to work on a replacement for Itanium (if the injunction goes for blocking sales).

        They may take a stock hit, but progress technology-wise they may be able to get put more of a dent on Intel's bandwagon.

        Those who go for AMD usually stay with AMD - phorm
    • Re:AMD... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @08:01AM (#4431359) Homepage Journal
      ...must be throwing a party right about now.

      While the 150M$ isn't significant, the injunction of Itaniums may have the undesired, or desired, or who the heck knows, affect of forcing Yamhill.

      I'd normally say it's unlikely that Intergraph would push for the injuction, prefering a slice of the pie, they already would have 150M$...

      Theft of technology isn't a new thing, for those who have followed the fortunes of the Alpha processors. Intel was charged with 12 counts of patent infringement, and effectively working in bad faith from the moment they entered a technology sharing agreement with DEC to the moment it broke of and they kept many of the ideas. DEC bided their time, built their case, for two years and then lowered the boom. Intel was lucky to get off as lightly, out of court, as they did, because DEC threatened to block all sales of Pentium processors. Intel ended up paying the long price for the FAB, which they shut down eventually. Yet, all the cash Intel handed DEC didn't save them. As you probably know, DEC was bought by Compaq and now Compaq is part of HP.

      Maybe more appropriate to suggest Sun and some people at HP (though not those working on McKinley) are jumping up and down with joy. Certainly for anyone who (still) assumed the Itaniums as a threat this holds some interest, but I doubt it really would bring and end to the Itanium line.

  • by mutterer ( 519272 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:32AM (#4430711) Homepage Journal
    I just wanted to be the first to say that.

    I know this doesn't really have anything to do with DRM, but it would be nice if it would at least slow it down.
    But on a more relevant note, isn't this also taking patents a little too far? It sounds like they've patented a kind of technology that is virtually inevitable in the computing field. Could I run out and patent the idea of 128 bit parallel chip?
    If we're going to fight IP abuse, it may actually be in our interest to support intel on this one. Unfortunately that would be helping a company at the forefront of DRM.
    Oh the horror.. We may be screwed either way.
    • Could I run out and patent the idea of 128 bit parallel chip?

      Application for patent: method by which an individual may suggest/ask feedback regarding (un)patentable ideas in an Internet-based group discussion forum.

      Somehow, I'm guessing there's probably some prior art here....
    • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @06:47AM (#4431086) Homepage
      The more big companies feel the pain caused by over-reaching IP claims, the faster the day will come that our "representatives" will be forced to rationalize these laws.
      • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by p3d0 ( 42270 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:42AM (#4431258)
        Bull. They'll find a way to modify the laws to turn the advantage even more to themselves.
      • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bwt ( 68845 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @08:44AM (#4431602) Homepage

        Intel already feels the pain, and has is one of the big supporters of a more sane and relaxed IP approach. They have submitted a number of briefs (including one supporting Eldred, IIRC) where they basically say "we are prolific IP holders, yet we often feel the pain of overbroad IP policy and on balance we support X's position to rationalize IP law."

        It is very hypocritical for people here to cheer. We should support fair IP for everyone, large or small.
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @08:47AM (#4431625)
      It sounds like they've patented a kind of technology that is virtually inevitable in the computing field. Could I run out and patent the idea of 128 bit parallel chip?

      You cannot patent an idea, only the implementation of an idea. Further, it must be non-obvious to a practitioner in the field, and of course it must be original. An example would be that you could patent your design for a sprocket wrangling machine, but if someone else came up with a different way to wrangle sprockets they would be unaffected by your patent - the fact that they both produced wrangled sprockets is irrelevant.

      You could patent a new chip fabrication technique, and you could patent a specific design for a 128-bit chip. But any chip that's 2^n bits would be obvious to a practitioner, and only an idea, so no.
      • You cannot patent an idea, only the implementation of an idea.

        You're confusing patent and copyright law there. You cannot copyright an idea, only the expression of the idea. Patents are all about ideas, as in methods, processes and apparatus. Your points about non-obviousness and originality are correct, which weeds out most "pure idea" patents. (Although in the software and business process fields we can come up with too many counter-examples).

        Classic examples of patenting an idea rather than the expression abound in the drug field, where a patent can be obtained for treating disease X with drug Y that was initially developed for treating disease Z. (This may actually make some sense, since the drugco has to go through expensive trials to get FDA approval for treating disease X with drug Y, even if drug Y has proven harmless in years of using it for disease Z. Sigh.)

        • You cannot copyright an idea, only the expression of the idea. Patents are all about ideas, as in methods, processes and apparatus.

          What I meant, to use my earlier example, is that you cannot patent the idea of wrangling sprockets (which would prevent anyone else from doing it) but only a specific sprocket wrangling technique (which would prevent anyone else from using your technique, but leave them free to wrangle sprockets by other means). The first is an idea, the second an implementation.
        • Patents are all about ideas, as in methods, processes and apparatus.

          There is a fine line between ideas and implementations. An idea in the sense of patent law is an abstract concept, say like a mathematical algorithm. The implementation of that idea is the use of that algorithm, say to compress images for storage and transmission (see .gif).

          That is not to say that in most people's minds the use of LZW compression on images in computers isn't an idea - it is. But legal language the use of an idea to accomplish a concrete goal with some speciific instrumentaility, i.e. a computer is in fact an implementation, not the idea. It is that implementation, NOT the idea that is patentable.

          Classic examples of patenting an idea rather than the expression abound in the drug field, where a patent can be obtained for treating disease X with drug Y that was initially developed for treating disease Z.

          This is NOT an idea in the sense of the language of patent law. The process of use of this drug to treat the disease is an implementation of the idea. If somebody else comes up with a different drug, using the same idea of treating this disease, they can ALSO get a patent on the different implementation.

      • the fact that they both produced wrangled sprockets is irrelevant.

        Not if you can get the courts to say the doctrine of equivalents covers the other sprocket wrangler too.

        Or, of course you might hold a patent on wrangled sprockets.

      • This isn't really true. You can patent just about anything you want, no matter how obvious or unoriginal it is. As long as you pay the patent office fees, they'll grant you a patent. IIRC, someone patented the wheel not too long ago.

        However, a patent doesn't do anything for you by itself; next you have to use your patent to attack other people, and then it's a case of who has the more expensive lawyers. So if you want to patent a 128-bit chip, go right ahead. If you can afford the lawyers, the system is on your side.
  • Name (Score:4, Informative)

    by e8johan ( 605347 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:33AM (#4430713) Homepage Journal
    The article fails to mention any technical details concerning the patent, but it sounds as if it has something to do with Intel's EPIC (which basicly is VLIW).

    I'd say that Intel will have to pay, because if Intergraph stops the Itanium series of processors, it will mean an even bigger loss of money, and perhaps give AMD time to get a market advantage with the Hammer.
    • Re:Name (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sirsnork ( 530512 )
      Of course Intel well pay, but the bigger problem is that they have poured billions into Itanium and may now have to face not being able to sell any if the second case goes through
    • EPIC has some similarities to VLIW, but it is not VLIW. VLIW, in the purist sense, is where an instruction word specifies the behavior of every functional unit. If one unit can't be used during this instruction, then the instruction must contain no-op bits for that unit.

      EPIC specifies instruction bundles, which are essentially groups of instructions that have no inter-dependencies. However the execution engine still has the ability to dispatch parts of the instruction bundle to any function unit it wants to as long as dependencies between instruction bundles are maintained.

      This is a big difference. The problem with VLIW is that once you define an instruction set, you are essentially hand-cuffed to a specific micro-architecture.

      Intel breaks those cuffs with EPIC. The micro-architecture of Itanium compared with Itanium2 is vastly different.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:33AM (#4430715)
  • by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:37AM (#4430734)
    It seems that intel has learned a lesson the chinese already knew with regards to making sure you really own your ip portfolio [slashdot.org].

    Or it could be proof that even the best lawyers can occasionally miss something embarrassing in a patent search.

  • by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:37AM (#4430736) Homepage
    Maybe a serious attempt to sort out the patent system could bring Intel on board at this point, and possibly a lot of other companies too.

    Intel no doubt has a lot of patents that it regards as valuable, so it won't support a proposal to do away with patents all together. But a proposal to reduce the "landmine" effect of unknown patents might win support in the technology industry, because landmine patents are a nightmare to everyone there.

    So, how do you prevent landmine patents but still keep the basic concept of a patent? Maybe the time has come for a "sweat of the brow" basis for patents. At present patents are granted on the "lightbulb moment" theory: the inventor has a flash of inspiration and the invention springs fully formed from his brow. But this leads to silly stuff like the infamous XOR patent (which patented the use of XOR for screen cursors in GUIs). However the justification for patents lies in the investment required to bring an idea to market. So maybe patents should be granted based on evidence of the hard work required to generate the invention.

    What do you think?

    Paul.

    • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:00AM (#4430792) Homepage
      This is EXACTLY the sort of case that the patent system was set up to support. This is a GOOD example of patents working well. Intel infringed on the work of another individual, okay they claim they didn't know about it, but how much should we believe that a corporation like that didn't just think "Hell we've got the most lawyers".

      Intel get zero sympathy from me here, too many big companies have played the lawyer card and won.
      • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @06:02AM (#4430971) Journal
        Discussions such as this one are the result of the different views people have on the reasons we have patents. What is it the patent system actually tries to accomplish?

        Stimulate research by allowing individuals and companies to reap the full benefits from their research, knowing that the competition will not be able to run off with the things they have laboured to invent. Patenting drugs is an example, they take considerable research and testing to develop, and their formulas should therefor be protected. However patenting gene sequences also fall under this category. Many people say that they should not be patentable, but it can be argued that they should, due to the large amount of effort involved in finding and exploiting interesting gene sequences.

        Protect ideas, basically saying that if you think of something first, you have full rights to the idea. Something like the telephone, for which the technology already existed but no one had thought of this particular application yet, before Bell. Single-click buying and XOR cursor patents fall under this category as well though, patented by people who are simply the first to be faced with a trivial problem, and patent the obvious solution to that problem.

        Foster innovation and competition in the marketplace, by giving startups the rights over their ideas and designs, they have the opportunity to develop their business without the competition taking their idea and crushing them. Individuals thinking up novelty items such as the "waving hand on a spring" would like their ideas protected, so that they can market and produce these items without large-scale Hong Kong and Chinese manufacturers taking their idea and flooding the market with 10 million units produced overnight. But Intel can use this as well, patenting the design for a CPU socket to lock out competition in a market they already dominate.

        Which ever of these three reasons for patents you believe in (or any other reason for that matter), one can come up with both good and bad examples of patents that meet the criteria, ("Good" and "bad" being designations that most people would agree with in these cases).

        In my opinion, the best solution might be to shorten patent life. If the purpose of patents is to encourage ideas to be published and used, yet allow the inventors to reap the benefits of their ideas and their work, then a shorter lifespan of patents would work well... how long does it generally take for a company to recoup monies invested in research anyway? If I have a good idea but I lack the means to develop it in the near future, is the public not better off if another company is allowed to use my idea after the patent lapses after a few years, instead of allowing me to sit on it for ages, perhaps hoping some company will discover the same idea and then spring my patent on them? I would suggest a patent lifespan of no more than a few years... but perhaps others can come up with reasons longer lifespans would be a necessity.
        • might be to shorten patent life.

          Or create a special patent for software, that only last 4 years or so. And have a special technical committee for that type of patent.

          It not unprecedented, there are lots of special types of patents already, such as biological ones, with different rules from normal patents.
        • NO, Not Genes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by IPFreely ( 47576 ) <mark@mwiley.org> on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:54AM (#4431311) Homepage Journal
          However patenting gene sequences also fall under this category. Many people say that they should not be patentable, but it can be argued that they should, due to the large amount of effort involved in finding and exploiting interesting gene sequences.

          There is a big difference with genetics. Genes already exist in nature. The people who are patenting genes are FINDING them, not INVENTING the. The result is that they are using the patent to prevent other people from performing research on naturally occuring bio functions.

          Simply having a lot of work and money involved in something does not justify enabling patents on it. You are still FINDING something that already existed. The patent system is for developing something that does not already exist.

          One group patented genes [slashdot.org] that they thought were related to breast cancer. Then they prevented other groups from researching various cures for breast cancer. THAT SUCKS.

          If someone developes a gene sequence from nothing, let them patent it. But if they just find an existing sequence in nature, then it should qualify as prior art and prevent the patent.

        • What does the patent system try to accomplish? I think your "stimulate research" and "foster innovation" on on the mark, but "protect ideas" is just another way of describing what patents do, not what they're designed to accomplish.

          In any case, the question is: does the patent system meet these objectives? I don't know the answer, but I don't think it's a forgone conclusion that it does. Another way of asking the same question would be "If the patent system didn't exist, what would happen to research and development?"

          With some effort, this seems like a question that can be answered empirically. In different places and different times, the patent system did/does not exist. What are the consequences? Certainly you can't say there was never any basic research without a patent system in place. But to what degree has the patent system accelerated or retarded progress? Remember, not everyone agrees that patents, certainly not all /types/ of patents, promote progress.

          If you're going to restrict my freedoms, please provide some solid evidence that these restrictions are indeed useful.
    • by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <{oliverthered} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:02AM (#4430797) Journal
      A Patent should last for twice the length of time it would take an 'expert' to perform research that would produce the same effect.

      What do I mean?
      Well say I came up with a new drug based on xyz and it took me 5 years to research this, then the patent would last for 10 years.

      Or say I fed everything through a computer and it took 10days to come up with the drug, well then the patent would only last 20days.

      It's not goinging to be too long before you can use computer software to generate patentable ideas in a very short space of time, especially in the field of genetics and drugs.

      The same idea of 'time to invent' could be applied to other patents, simple patents would still be granted but they may only last for a couple of hours!

      • That's a dumb idea. It could take 20 years to acquire the knowledge to be able to research something in 10 days.

        The time of an expert is more valuable than the time of a novice.

        -Kevin

        • I want to restate this.

          Many patent ideas are novel and not at all obvious results of a fixed amount of research. Even an expert may never come up with these ideas in a lifetime. In other words, the value of a patent doesn't correlate with the time it took an inventor to develop the idea. You can't assume that you could plug in another expert like a lightbulb and have invented TV or relativity or whatever.

          -Kevin

      • Nice idea, but this would be lawyer hell. Whats to stop people from lying ? Uhh, sure I just figured it out in the last 5 min... but I've been thinking about it for uhh... 20 years !
      • by ianezz ( 31449 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @08:50AM (#4431649) Homepage
        A Patent should last for twice the length of time it would take an 'expert' to perform research that would produce the same effect.

        And how would you determine how much it would take for an expert to come up with the same results?

        Since the object of the patent has to be, by definition, nonobvious and without prior art, how could one esteem how long it would take to an "expert" to perform a research which would lead to equivalent results? Esteems are based on previous experience...

        And how much resources (read: money, which can greatly speed up things) should be available to the "expert" to perform such ideal research and accomplish equivalent results?

        Hint: the only way is to ask the patent applicant himself, and trust him.

        • 'Hint: the only way is to ask the patent applicant himself, and trust him.'

          1: Well for most patents this is easy, you know exactly when the company started developing xyz and you know when now is, a lot of decent patents are a matter of applying first principals to a particular problem until a solution is reached.

          2:
          Ask Intel how long it took them to developed there patent violating technology. (proof required and a big fuck off jail sentence for lying)

          3: When it comes to computed patents then you should also be able to work out or find out how long it would take.

          4: have a panel review the patent, when someone come to you with a job offer do you turn them down because you haven't a clue how long it will take to do the work? There are lots of good statistical processes out there for working out how long it takes.

          5: if the applicant lies then send them to do charitable work (in there chosen field), make there patents public domain etc..., there are too many cheating, lieing business men in the world, maybe sending a few to do [only] charitable work would help clean up the system.

    • by fleafan ( 547786 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:11AM (#4430821)
      I don't think the legislation [cornell.edu] itself is the problem as much as the enforcement thereof.

      I work in the patens dep. of a medical firm, and we spend hours and hours searching the patent databases for stuff that might be infringing or stuff that could block one of our future patents.
      When we find 'landmines', we usually do one of two things:

      1. Give it up.
      2. File for a patent anyway, wait for the lawsuit and then negotiate a license agreement (if possible).

      The reason for the latter is that in order to get a patent, you don't nescesarily have to abide by the law. You just have to convince an official patent agent that you do. The rest is up to the courts. I my opinion, if you want avoid 'landmines', do your homework.
      • The amount of homework required depends on the field.

        In pharmacuticals this approach is feasible. A medical patent would have to mention both the disease and the treatment, and both of these have fairly well defined keywords to describe them.

        At the other extreme, software patents are essentially unsearchable. A patentable idea can often be expressed in a few lines of code, so a 100,000 line program has many thousands of ideas in it, any one of which might already be patented. Worse yet there is no system for categorising and naming these ideas, so if I want to do a patent search on even one of these ideas I have only the vaguest guess as to what keywords to look for.

        So the only thing to do is to put your product on the market and pray that someone doesn't pop up and say "You stepped on my patent: cease and desist selling your product immediately".

        Intel faces a very similar problem: just substitute "simple logic circuits" for "lines of code" in the above. In fact chip designers these days do actually design chips in a programming language called VHDL, so the cases are exactly parallel.

        Paul.

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:12AM (#4430825)
      Orginally a working model of the invention was one of the required submissions to the patent office. This caused something of a logistical problem and so the requirement was eventually dropped, but it shows that the writers of the original patent laws ( Jefferson primarily) understood the problems the current system faces.

      "The Patent Act of 1790 (H.R. 41, introduced February 16, 1790, passed March 10, 1790) was crafted in part by Thomas Jefferson. As a result, it incorporated many of his beliefs including requirements for patents to have models submitted with all applications. Jefferson believed that ideas should not be patentable, rather patents should be issued only for physical inventions that have been reduced to practice."

      http://www.m-cam.com/~watsonj/usptohistory.html

      KFG
    • Actually, what I'd like to see is a real technical review of patents. For each patent application the patent office should assign ten knowledgable people in the field in question the job of solving the problems adressed in the patent and they get a week to do it. Take the ten engineers solutions and compare it with the patent application. If any of the solutions are similar or the same as the patent, then the patent is obviously trivial and should not be granted. Then the patent office should file away the solution and any other solutions the engineers came up with and no patent can be granted on any of those solutions, since they are obviously trivial.

      That way, crap like the solution to 'I want customers to be able to click once on a webpage to buy something, how do I do that?' wont ever get patented since it's trivial to solve, while 'how do I make a long lasting light powered by electricity' will be eligable for a patent since it isnt that trivial.
  • More technical info (Score:5, Informative)

    by zeekiorage ( 545864 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:44AM (#4430756)
    Intergraph was so confident they even have a FAQ on their site about the case here [intergraph.com].

    From the FAQ...
    Intergraph's patented PIC technology permits multiple processor operations to occur simultaneously, thereby significantly increasing processor performance. We believe that these patents are fundamental to parallel instruction computing and are specifically embodied in Intel's IA-64 architecture.
  • Sad... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @04:56AM (#4430785) Homepage
    I'm not a particularly big fan of Intel. But I want 64 bit processing to take off. This only hinders that. I'm really goddamn tired of our litigous society.

    Is Intergraph going to market a 64 bit chip for us? No. So why the hell do they feel the need to... bah. Nevermind. I can't go anywhere with this, it just gets me upset.
    • Re:Sad... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by turgid ( 580780 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:53AM (#4430940) Journal
      You do realise that 64-bit workstations have been around for many years, and they didn't come from intel? Like this [sun.com] and this [sun.com]. They're pretty affordable too.
    • But I want 64 bit processing to take off.

      64-bit CPUs are neat, but almost no one will use anything other than 32-bit binarys. Even in UNIX systems that have been 64-bit for years, nearly all the userland is still 32-bit, because there are no advantages to having a 64-bit address space for those programs.

      Unless Microsoft Office takes up 10GB of RAM one day to write a resume or I have to 'sed' many gigabytes of text in one file, 64-bit addressing isn't very useful.

      I have a feeling that those people who have a real need for 64-bits already have 64-bit workstations from vendors other than Intel (Sun, SGI, IBM, HPaq). And, for serious work, workstations, such as the Sun Blade 2000, really aren't all that expensive, given their features (FibreChannel, 8MB CPU caches, beautiful case engineering, etc.).
  • Patent whining... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sultanoslack ( 320583 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:00AM (#4430791)
    I see a lot of comments on here whining about patents and the need for patent reform and all that jazz. Patents are not a bad thing! This is a hardware patent, not a software patent.

    Here we have a typical case of the patent system working properly:

    A smallish (relatively) company create an invention -- new hardware

    A large company sees that, likes it, and decides to copy that invention

    The smaller company sues for patent infringement, because hey, the big company didn't invent this

    This is how things are supposed to work. Software patents are a completely different thing, but here we have a non-trivial hardware inovation that was patented and that patent was infringed upon. Please don't lump the two together under patent reform.

    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:06AM (#4430805)
      The question is, did Intel see it, like it and decide to copy it? Or did the patent cover a trivial and natural development that any engineer would create once faced with the problem? If it's trivial and someone else will quickly come up with the same solution, the patent should never have been granted in the first place.
      • Re:Patent whining... (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sherloqq ( 577391 )
        That's a very good question. According to the Register article [theregister.co.uk] mentioned in an earlier post,

        • Intergraph and Intel have been involved in patent infringement lawsuits since 1997. In April this year, Intel agreed to pay Intergraph $300m damages to settle a separate infringement suit in Alabama that centered on Pentium processors.


        I'd be very surprised if they had no knowledge of the technology.
      • Re:Patent whining... (Score:2, Informative)

        by robburt ( 139183 )
        Integraph has been working with Intel for a very long time. It was Integraph in fact that helped develop MMX which was the first time that Intel added multi-media extensions to a chip. There was a legal suit related to that as well, but Integraph continued to work with Intel supporing multi-media chip support, in order to have a stable and superior chip for it's NT workstations (the Z series).

        I state the above because, while it is true that a developer may have naturally come up with the ideas, it should be noted that they had access to the intellectual efforts of Integraph. In short, I agree that this is a case of the patent system working to protect the inventor/innovator.

      • If it's trivial and someone else will quickly come up with the same solution, the patent should never have been granted in the first place.

        Well, duh. That's what the patent law says - non-obvious to one with ordinary skill in the art is a requirement for patentability.

        Since this sort of parallel instruction processing is relatively new to Intel's CPU family, it seems to me that maybe in fact this was a non-obvious invention!

    • by MavEtJu ( 241979 ) <slashdot@@@mavetju...org> on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:18AM (#4430844) Homepage
      This is a hardware patent, not a software patent.

      If it is a hardware patent, then the idea behind it isn't patented, right? So Intel should be able to build their own version of it with their own design, right? And the owner of the patent shouldn't be able to complain because Intel made their own design, right?

      Edwin

      • Wow, uhm, no. I'm shocked that this got modded up to +4.

        If patents only covered a single implementation of an invention, this would defeat the purpose that patents do and always have had.

        Patents cover an idea -- an invention. In fact the idea of patents is that it produces a way to license that invention to other manufacturers, who of course will differ in the details of implementation.

        By me saying a hardware patent I was attempting to differentiate between software patents. This is not a patent on an algorightm -- math -- but rather a patent on a way to build a specific type of hardware (and indeed an inovative one at that). If you want to build that type of hardware, as Intel does, you must license the patent from the patent holder.

        Basically, all patents are patents on ideas: hardware, software, gumball machines. There is no such thing as patents on a specific implementation. The closest thing that I guess you might be getting mixed up with is copyright law for media, software, etc., but that doesn't apply to physical creations. (In copyright law, you have copyright over the text, code, etc. -- the implementation not the idea.)

  • by photonic ( 584757 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:03AM (#4430800)
    Have a look at the source of the patent claims:
    Intergraph [intergraph.com]

    It has extensive information about this lawsuit and a previous one, including legal docs, tech docs and some flash presentations for the technically impaired.
    • I agree, READ THE INFO FIRST !

      I hate to rant about the slashdot sheep/lemmings thing again but most of the posts so far drone on about something like "this should shake up the patent system", "patents should be more limited" and "I normally dont like intel but this is sad", etc... (the apologist ones are my all time favorite)

      WAKE UP!!!!

      Intergraph was absolutly kicking ass at one point, just like any other underdog you guys would usually champion, and Intel almost completely stomped them into the ground. It is more tham fair of them to do this and they have every right.

      Go read the history and at least decide for yourself. Please!!!

      ----

      btw, the pre-emptive apology / please dont mod me down ones are my all time favorite, ala "I normally dont like intel but..." or "I dont normally like microsoft but..."
    • I couldn't find any really techy stuff, mostly patent descriptions and the vastly simplified flash presentation. To me it didn't seem like such a big thing. The grouping part (ie done by compilers) have been researched a lot in academic circuits, but it's a really hard problem. So I guess they could very well have some clever solutions there. (It's not really discussed in the presentation.)

      The "operation crossbar" seems like a rather simple solution. As it is described anyone who has used a normal ethernet switch is familiar with the idea. (Unless again, there is more to it which isn't shown.)

      So pesonally I'm still not quite certain about how much of a case they have. (From a technical stand point, I don't care about the legal stuff.)
  • by lob5ter ( 320820 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:09AM (#4430814)
    Cheque made payable to Intergraph for $149.99999...
  • Patent reform (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:17AM (#4430838) Homepage Journal

    When big companies get hit a few times like this corporate America will start to see the point that there's really no one who benefits from the patent system the way it is right now. But doing away with patents altogether won't find any takers, as someone's pointed out. Still, this is a good time to start a serious campaign for patent reform. Some checks and balances should be built in, along these lines:
    • Anyone about to release a product submits a description of it to the PTO; patent holders who think the product infringes on their patent has a month or 2 to file a complaint and prove the infringement. The onus of looking out for possible infringement lies enrtirely with the patent holder.
    • A patent holder can not be allowed to sit on a patent indefinitely and prevent others from using the invention. To this end, a patent holder must produce proof that s/he is working to commercially exploit his patent if s/he wants to hold on to it for more than (say) 10 years.
    I'm not sure if these are practical to implement the way I've put them, but you get the idea.
    Of course I don't think anything of this sort will happen in the near future, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight.
    • Re:Patent reform (Score:5, Informative)

      by furiae ( 452472 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @06:21AM (#4431027)

      I'm sorry but I have to say any attempts of patent reform out of these forums are doomed to fail. Utterly.

      (BTW, I'm not directing my followup at the previous post either... just at patent reform posts here in general).

      The level of ignorance of intellectual property law displayed is most slashdot discussions is roughly that of a newbie wanting to sue someone because his or her linux installation was too hard for them.

      Cruel but fair.

      Apart from disagreements based on a political or economic stance (hey, anyone's entitled to an opinion), it is clear that many people posting patent reform proposals have utterly no clue about what a patent is, how to read one, what can be protected by a patent and what are the criteria for patenting.

      The signal to noise ratio on this topic is vanishingly small which is no excuse given that there are many excellent web-based resources which might help people learn a bit about IP law.

      As a really rough guide before commenting on *any* patent infringement case, here are a few rules...

      1. READ THE PATENT. For US patents the full text and figures are available on www.uspto.gov. For European and many other countries check out http://ep.espacenet.com (which brings me to rule 2...)

      2. Patents are jurisdictional. Yes, other countries have patent systems which may or may not be identical to the US system. In fact, the US has some quite strange wrinkles compared with other places. Also, a US patent has NO legal effect outside the US (other than as prior art - like any other document...).

      2. READ THE CLAIMS. If I had a dollar for every time I'd read a spittle-flecked indignant post about someone 'patenting' something when it is clear the author of the post has only read the title or the abstract.... The legal coverage is in the claims - these are the numbered clauses at the end of the patent. This probably accounts for 80% of indignant anti-patent posts. Someone hears about a patent and posts something along the lines of "they patented X???!?!! hey what about if I patented Y!!!". It's a no brainer. Read them. For example, the RIM Blackberry patent sounds scary but the reality is the claims look too narrow, include weird limitations and seem to read on lots of prior art. But this didn't stop many hysterical posts demanding patent reform. Otoh, there is the xerox 'graffiti' patent which I'm sure Palm Inc have found very interesting.

      4. Realise that the simple fact of a patent existing is NO judgement on the value of the technology. Anyone is free to try and patent the dumbest things they want to. Who is to judge their idea? Not me, not you and certainly not anyone in the US (or any other) government. Child swing patents big deal - perhaps it was a "baby examiner". There are lots of silly patents out there. They make amusing reading. All they prove is that someone spent money on them and managed to convince a patent examiner that it was new and inventive.

      5. If something annoys you about the patent system, do some research to find out if there is in fact a problem. For example the previous poster is concerned about people sitting on patents and not working them. Well, many countries have what are called compulsory licenses which cover situations where a patent isn't worked. Structures vary, but a quick bit of research should have revealed this legal mechanism.

      If you follow those rules, you should be able to at least contribute something useful in that hazy zone in where technology, law and economics overlap. Otherwise, you can look very foolish. No-one would expect to post on slashdot with inane comments on technology and not expect to be corrected.

      There it is.

      (By the way, yes, I am a patent attorney (not in the US). So of course I have a vested interested in the patent system. It's just impossible to discuss patent reform if the contributors known nothing about the system itself.)

      • The patent system is broken. There is no way to determine if some particular item (I'm really thinking of code here) is patented. You can determine if some particular patent covers it, perhaps. But the courts have officially decided that patent laws are so obtuse that even normal lawyers aren't competent to have any opinion on what is or is not covered.

        The patent system is so broken that we would be better off without any patent system at all. You, perhaps, would not be, but being an expert at the current system doesn't justify it's continuance.

        Some patent system would probably be desireable. The current one is not. The current one is so bad that we would be better without any at all.
    • Hey,

      The onus of looking out for possible infringement lies enrtirely with the patent holder.

      Surely this would pander to the needs of big buisness, because large companies could have lots of lawyers looking at every product, but small companies and individual inventors would be unable to finance such a search?

      Michael
  • Intel agrees to 72-hour deadline
    technology firms aim to end free access to their goods

    Intel, the chip making giant, has agreed to block patented CPUs from its site, following a fresh legal ruling.
    A federal judge has given Intel 72 hours to block the processors containing patented "paralell instruction computing" technology.

    The deadline operates from the moment anti-fun agents present Intel with lists of processors containing patented "paralell instruction computing" technology they want banned.

    "Intel will follow the District Court's order," said Hank Barry, chief executive of Intel.

    "Even before the court entered the order, we began making efforts to comply with what we believed to be the dictates of the Ninth Circuit's ruling," he added.

    A spokeswoman for the Intergraph said lawyers for the trade group had received the long-awaited injunction late on Monday night in the US.

    "I have never bought so much bloatware in my life since I started using Intel"

    A Intel fan

    The ruling is another victory for the anti-fun agents who have been in legal battle with Intel since December 1999.

    They object to their CPUs being freely passed online in little static-charged plastic drug deal baggies between the 50 million Intel users.

    "We are gratified the District Court acted so promptly in issuing its injunction requiring Intel to remove infringing works from its system," said Hilary Rosen, president of the Intergraph.

    Dismayed fans

    Fans of Intel, however, have expressed their dismay at the latest ruling.

    "I don't know why people would believe for a second that the CPUs industry is losing money because of Intel," said one fan, using the name "Scorpio 65".

    "I have never bought so much bloatware in my life since I started using Intel... I can promise I won't be buying as much bloatware if Intel shuts down, because I won't be able to load or run anything."

    Fans also said they would be turning to other chip makers on the internet, such as AMD, Cyrix and Transmeta.

    Identifying chips

    However, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel also ruled that major CPUs producers must help Intel comply by making "a substantial effort" to identify chips that are being transmitted through the chip-swapping service.

    Mr Barry added that court rejected the technology brokers's argument that Intel was inherently illegal.

    He called for the technology brokers to share with Intel the burden of complying.

    Although there are as yet no details of what punishment might be imposed if the deadline were missed, the most likely would see Intel forced to close down.

    Nicholas Economides, an economics professor at New York University, said he sees the decision as "the beginning of the end for Intel, at least for Intel as a beacon of hope in the free world."

    Industry doubts on filter

    Intel said it had started blocking users from two million CPUs chips late on Sunday.

    Industry sources said that amounted to barring only 1,000 or fewer patented processors containing patented "paralell instruction computing" technology on an online directory in which billions of such chips were traded monthly.

    And some Intel users were reported to be already finding ways round the blocking mechanism.

    On its website, Intel said the process of screening out chip names, clock speeds and L2 cache sizes would not be easy.

    "It has involved a significant investment of time and resources," a statement said.

    "However, we believe it is superior to shutting the service down and disbanding the community during the transition period to the new membership-based service."

    Intel made its pledge to block access to patented material on Friday when it was in court fighting for its life.

    anti-fun scepticism

    Several major anti-fun agents had sued Intel for encouraging and facilitating patent infringements.

    They had asked the judge to issue an injunction that would ban the service from operating unless it could block fargs of patented CPUs.

    It was believed that this would effectively bring Intel's life to an end because the service had said it did not have the software to filter out such processors containing patented "paralell instruction computing" technology. Consequently, Intel's sudden promise was met with much scepticism.

    "They've been telling the courts they can't do this. All of a sudden, they figured it out," said Robert Schwartz, a lawyer who has previously represented Warner Studios in similar cases.

    Imminent injunction

    Judge Patel had previously issued an injunction that would have effectively closed down Intel, but had been asked by a higher court to reconsider the case after Intel appealed against her decision.

    "I've been stealing ram sticks like crazy"
    Intel user

    Intel wants to transform its website into a subscription service, where people pay to farg CPUs.

    To make this a success, it needs to retain its loyal users, and this cannot be done if it closes down.

    Widely watched

    The legal battle with Intel is being closely watched because of its implications for CPUs, books, wheels, fire and other technology being distributed via the internet.

    However, Intel's efforts appear to have won over at least one of its potential rivals.

    Media and technology giant Vivendi Universal seemed to warm on Monday to the idea of joining Intel's planned subscription service with German media giant Bertelsmann, saying it could consider jumping on board over the next few months.

    http://www.stern.nyu.edu/networks/quotes/BBC_Mar ch _6_2001.htm
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:18AM (#4430841)
    According to the Register, the patent is basically on parallel branch prediction, something which was at the core of the Merced design since ... well, the mid 90's. I mean, the thing was on the drawing board a long time, and EPIC really was the only thing we knew about for a while. It's got to be the oldest part of the Merced design. So one has to wonder whether Intergraph didn't realize they held the IP rights to EPIC and other such designs, or (a million times more likely) they waited with their lawsuit until they could milk Intel for the most money.

    I understand why you don't want to let just anybody build products on the back of the research done by a company's scientists. But this sounds to me like Intergraph were not honestly trying to prevent Intel from using their IP. In fact, I think they might structure their buisiness model around this sort of deal: Patent something you know a big company is going to need soon, wait until they've completely commited to it, and beat a few million out of them in court. Would anybody call this a legitimate revenue model?

    One might even feel bad for Intel, as they seem to attract some pretty slimy parasites recently (none worse than Rambus). However, one must remind oneself about all the frivolous IP infringement suits they filed against AMD and VIA. Then, this looks like cumupets (sp?).

    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:50AM (#4431286) Journal
      I think they might structure their buisiness model around this sort of deal: Patent something you know a big company is going to need soon, wait until they've completely commited to it, and beat a few million out of them in court. Would anybody call this a legitimate revenue model?

      Bzzzz, thank you for playing.

      One of Intergraph's major businesses is 3D industrial design--currently software, but in the past, also hardware (3d accelerators, custom designed workstations, etc) which is where this patent came from.

      There business model is CERTAINLY not composed of "suing intel."
  • Bummer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:21AM (#4430854)
    This is a familiar pattern.

    A company that fails in the market resorts to intellectual property suits to tax successful companies.

    Let's be clear here, Intel didn't steal Integraphs designs, but now everyone who purchases an Itanium CPU from Intel must subsidise Integraph who had no hand in designing or manufacturing them.
    • Re:Bummer (Score:2, Interesting)

      Agreed.

      Worse then the lawsuit is that today's investors are insane and expect corporate growth for each consecutive quarter wether a lawsuit is pressed or not. This means Intel will just add the 150 million dollar cost to all the cpu's sold. This is bad news for you and me. I wonder how much we actually pay for redicolous patents in every day life?

      I can imagine a $10 dollar cpu tax for every intel cpu sold for now on. Then integraph will sue Amd and they too will cave in and bring the cost to the consumers to satisfy the shareholders.

      I smell a rambus going on. Rambus makes money off of each ddr sold unless they are bought from samsung or some European company that I forget the name. They have a patent on ddram. Its silly and outrageous.
    • Re:Bummer (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hobophile ( 602318 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @08:08AM (#4431389) Homepage
      Let's be clear here, Intel didn't steal Integraphs designs, but now everyone who purchases an Itanium CPU from Intel must subsidise Integraph who had no hand in designing or manufacturing them.

      No, no, no! You might try reading up on this case a little before you rant about how Intergraph is trying to tax successful companies and hurting the consumers. Let's see what Intergraph [intergraph.com] says on the matter.

      Intergraph claims that after several years of mutually beneficial work, in 1996 Intel began making unreasonable demands for royalty-free rights to Intergraph patents already being used in Intel microprocessors. When Intergraph refused, Intel abused its monopoly power by engaging in a series of illegal coercive actions intended to force Intergraph to give Intel access to the patents.

      Clearly Intergraph and Intel actually did work together in the past. This is not a case where Intergraph patented lots and lots of processor-related ideas in the hopes that some bigger company would unknowingly implement them, whereupon they would smack them with lawsuit. The patents in question were not submarine patents.

      Why take Intergraph's word for it? Well, look at the chronology of events. Intel tells Intergraph "we like your designs, give us royalty-free access to the patents." Intergraph refuses. Intel implements them anyhow. Intergraph sues. Intel asks the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming it is obvious that Intergraph gave them access to the patents. The judge sides with Intergraph and rejects Intel's argument that they had a license for implementing those patents.

      At no point did Intel try to show prior art. At no point has Intel claimed that the patents were trivial and should not have been granted. On the contrary, Intel fully understood the usefulness of the patents and implemented them in its newer processors. The only thing they had a problem with was paying royalties to Intergraph. They decided that they could get away with not doing so, that they were a bigger company and could throw their weight around and force Intergraph to concede.

      Moreover, Intergraph also sued Intel under the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act for acting like a monopoly. Thus far that particular legal approach has amounted to very little, because the courts have said that Intergraph is not a direct competitor with Intel and is thus unable to sue under antitrust laws, but that does not change the point that the courts saw very real merit in Intergraph's allegations of abuse of monopoly power.

      Why is it that one monopoly (Microsoft) is execrated whenever it engages in predatory business practices, but when Intel does something equally bullying and unfair, people decry Intergraph for picking on Intel?

  • Dubious patents... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dubious9 ( 580994 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:24AM (#4430864) Journal
    IP patents lead to all sorts of problems. How different is different enough not to be sued? If I independently develop a similar, say, algorithm why shouldn't I be allowed to use it?

    If I discover an optimal algorithm but then another makes the same discovery and patents it, how is this fair?

    How can you tell the difference between an invention and a discovery? What if I use a different means to achieve the same specific end?

    Sometimes when I think about pantent law, I say to myself, "Me, why does head feel like it being applied to sufficiently large cheese grater and vigorously shaken?" To which I answer, "You mindless grammar fiend! More brain washing for you!" and silenty look at the pretty blue colors at microsoft.com
    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @06:19AM (#4431020)
      The theory of patents is that you would not be able to think of it by yourself. If you consider that, patents make sense, since by patenting something the patent holder gets exclusive right to the idea for a certain time in exchange for him disclosing the idea to the public. You both gain, you get access to an idea you otherwise wouldnt have access to, and he gets paid for telling the world rather than having to keep it secret and hope nobody figures out how he did it.

      Of course it doesnt work in practice since the patent office grants patents for 'inventions' that a bunch of shaved monkeys with typewriters could create in hours.

      If there is a likelyhood that someone else will independently invent the same thing within the lifetime of the patent it just shouldnt be granted.
  • by PGillingwater ( 72739 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:38AM (#4430892) Homepage

    I had this great idea, and thought of Patenting it, but in the interests of open source and free software, decided to publish it for free use. As far as I know, there is no prior art. :-)

    VCR Clock Setting

    A reliable sign of the absence of technical knowledge is to see the flashing 12:00 of a VCR. It seems that manufacturers can't get their act together, to create a UI that the average Joe (or Joanne) can use to set the time in the VCR (or Microwave oven.)

    My idea is to add a single button, replacing all those time setting menus. On this button, and also on a large sheet of card in several languages, would be written the words "Press the Time button at 12 noon." Of course, technicians can also be trained to do this for those who have trouble following instructions.

    Share and Enjoy!

    [Note to moderators: +1 Funny. It's humor.]
    • And just for fun, here are some useful links that I used in the search for Prior Art. :-)

      http://www.motelmag.com/articles/clock.html
      htt p://aroundcny.com/technofile/texts/howadjusttim er.htm
    • Unfortunately the calendar only could be set once a year. :)
    • I just wanna patent the concept behind the constantly flashing 12:00 on all VCRs and clocks, then the world will be mine! Mine I tell you! Muahhahhahhahhhh!!!
    • Or you could just let the VCR automatically set itself. PBS stations in the US send out the time in their signal on one of the scan lines you don't normally see. There aren't too many places in the US that don't have PBS stations. PBS stations for those not in the US are public broadcasting stations that are non-profit, mostly commercial free and supported by the government and also by grants from corporations and by donations from the public.
    • Why not just patent a new method of keeping time that always makes it 12:00? :P
  • Did you know, that the wheel has been patented?
    Innovation Patent #2001100012 [ipmenu.com] granted [ipaustralia.gov.au] by the Australian Patent Office. [ipaustralia.gov.au]

  • by cpaluc ( 559921 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @05:55AM (#4430946)
    From Intergraph's site: US 5794003 [intergraph.com] and US 5560028 [intergraph.com]

    And, from the USPTO itself: US 5794003 [uspto.gov] and US 5560028 [uspto.gov]

    And, for future reference: search the USPTO [uspto.gov]

  • Is that the same Intergraph that used to make high end 3D workstations?
    Perhaps they still do, I've been out of the 3D world for a few years now - but I never really thought they had any of their own technology, just cool cases and fast hardware (other people's hardware), and solid video cards.

    • They used to make high-end unix-based workstations for CAD/GIS work. The US Army Corps of Engineers and several other government agencies, as well as civil & construction engineering companies were huge customers. Demand for those workstations started to decline as PC's got more powerful and other software, like AutoCAD and ARC/INFO started to become more popular. Now, I believe, they are basically a software company. Their software is still very popular in public works & civil engineering firms. The last time I had any dealings with them was about 6 years or so ago when I went with some engineers to the Intergraph headquarters in Huntsville to help test some utilities for interfacing Microstation and ARC/INFO.
  • Damn and inside info (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Apathy ( 584315 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:55AM (#4431324)

    I just unloaded my Intergraph stock a month ago.

    Oh well. I used to work in Intergraph's advanced processor division a couple a years ago. There was this designer that laid out the clipper cache for the C3/C4 processor. Well he got grabbed up by intel a few years later. Word had it, he designed part of the pent/intn cache.

  • by Sherloqq ( 577391 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @07:58AM (#4431342)
    Pending the final outcome of this patent infringement case, I wonder how this will affect AMD and its *hammer chip uptake in the higher-end 64-bit x86 architecture market. Should Intel lose the case, does any of this have the potential to help AMD increase market share in the 64-bit arena, whether by virtue of being a pure, innovative technology (as opposed to being ripped from someone else), or by having an advantage of already being on the market while Intel redesigns their chips? Or by having cheaper chips (by not having to tack a litigation 'tax' onto the price of processors)?

    Does any of this even matter? Will AMD still be the Cinderella in the corporate eyes when this is over?
  • This may be a little offtopic but as people is again discussing the merits of the modern patent system I would highly recomend this link from Scientific American:
    There's No Stopping Them [sciam.com]

    Well SciAm is a highly respectable publication which seems to have some good years of life. So I think we may take into consideration that if even perpetual motion engines keep being patented, anything can be patented, even the Creation or the Big Bang... Besides, in the article they give some interesting reason why we have so many silly patents and why we have so many troubles with courts. While this is not exactly about this patent we are discussing here, it gives some light on the state of the things.
  • 150M, so what (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 )
    Intel has reportedly poured 4 Bn into developing this thing, so this is an extra 3.8%.

    An abnormally bad flu season probably costs Intel this much.

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Friday October 11, 2002 @10:39AM (#4432360) Homepage
    ... AMD announces the acquisition of Intergraph for $400M. :-)

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