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One Via-Intel suit wraps up

Chipset maker Via Technologies settles one of its lawsuits with the chip giant, although several other suits are pending.

Via Technologies has settled one of its lawsuits with Intel, although several other suits remain pending.

The Taipei, Taiwan-based chipset maker and Intel have settled the final claim in a suit Intel had filed in June 1999. Via will not pay a royalty for the dismissal, the company said.

The case involved chipsets that Via developed to work with Intel's Pentium III processor and Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon chip, also known as the K7. Intel alleged that Via's chipsets violated a number of its patents.

After a war of words between the companies, many of the claims originally alleged in the case were settled in July 2000. Intel, however, continued to pursue its claims that Via's Athlon chipset violated Intel's intellectual property.

Since then, the suit has gradually been chipped away at. In November, the U.S. District Court of Northern California threw out one of Intel's claims. Another claim was dismissed earlier this month after the court found that Via had changed the design of its products to get around Intel's patents.

A summary judgment hearing for Intel's final claim in the suit was slated for December 13. On Tuesday, however, Intel dismissed the claim, thereby terminating the suit. The trial date had been scheduled for January 22.

"We could not be more delighted with this result," Via CEO Wen-Chi Chen said in a statement. "We believed from the outset that Intel's claims against our K7 chipsets were driven by marketing concerns rather than legal issues. Our engineering and legal teams did a great job so that we remain free to continue our thriving K7 chipset business."

Intel called the result a settlement. Earlier this month, an Intel representative indicated that the suit would likely be resolved before the trial.

Although this puts one action to bed, a larger legal battle looms. Earlier this year, Intel filed a series of suits in North America, Europe and Asia alleging that Via's chipsets for the Pentium 4 violate its intellectual property. Via, meanwhile, is pursuing claims that the Pentium 4 infringes its patents. Each side denies the other's allegations.

Whether these suits will be settled remains an open question. Sources close to companies say that the two sides remain far apart.

Still, the 1999 suit started viciously but quieted down quickly. At the time the suit was filed, Via had a product Intel didn't: a Pentium III chipset with a fast 133MHz bus that could be hooked up to standard memory. Intel's competing chipset only hooked up to more expensive Rambus memory. Via was gaining market share at the time. But once Intel came out with its own chipset that used standard memory, most of the legal claims got settled.

The chipset in the remaining suits allows Via to connect a Pentium 4 to fast double data rate (DDR) memory. Intel doesn't have such a product on the market yet but plans to release one soon.