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Creative suit against Cyrix fizzles

A California court allows Cyrix and its customers to use products challenged in a lawsuit by Creative Technology.

Creative Technology (CREAF) has lost the latest round in its 11-week legal battle with Cyrix and OEM buyers of Cyrix's MediaGX processor, including Compaq Computer.

Creative and its subsidiary Creative Labs are suing Cyrix (CYRX) and its chip customers for using a Creative audio driver that allegedly causes systems to falsely identify themselves as compatible with Creative's Sound Blaster technology. The suit charges false advertising, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and unfair competition.

A U.S. District Court in Northern California issued a preliminary injunction Friday stating that Cyrix and its chip customers may use the audio driver under their Microsoft Windows 95 license.

If and when Creative supplies Cyrix and its customers with a "de-labeled" replacement driver free of charge, the injunction states, that replacement will have to be incorporated in all future systems. A de-labeled driver would no longer cause a reference to Creative hardware to appear on computer screens.

"The injunction falls far short of the relief requested by Creative Labs," Compaq (CPQ) said in statement.

Creative's vice president and general counsel John Danforth conceded that this was so, noting that Creative had sought a time limit on the use of a de-labeled replacement, which the court did not grant. Creative also wanted all computers with the current chip to be fixed, but the court will only compel Cyrix and its customers to use chips with de-labeled drivers in new computers.

Danforth expressed frustration with the injunction. He acknowledged that, under the terms of their Windows 95 license, Compaq and other manufacturers may have the right to use the Creative driver with non-Creative hardware. "But they don't have the right to use our driver in a way that misdescribes our hardware," he said.

Still, the injunction was not a total loss for Creative, Danforth said. "We probably should have won more, but this recognizes that the chips were misleading and they have to fix them. And we're going to help them fix them."