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Intel goes global with Via lawsuits

The chip giant expands its legal fight with Via Technologies by filing patent infringement suits in Germany, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

Intel expanded its legal fight with Via Technologies on Wednesday by filing patent infringement suits in Germany, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

The suits primarily revolve around a chipset released by Taiwan-based Via earlier this year that can be matched with Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel claims Via's chipset, called the P4X266, violates eight of its patents.

Intel earlier this month filed a case in the U.S. District Court of Delaware against Via and S3 Graphics after licensing negotiations broke down.

For its part, Via disputes the contention and has filed its own patent infringement case in Texas. In its suit, Via, along with its Austin, Texas-based subsidiary Centaur Technology, claims the design of the Pentium 4 violates patents underlying its own microprocessors.

While the suits filed today are similar to Intel's first lawsuit, Intel has added causes of action alleging that Via's C3 microprocessor violates patents owned by Intel. To date, Intel has primarily sued Via over its chipsets.

"Intel invests billions of dollars each year in research and development to create new, patented inventions that bring significant value to our customers," Peter Detkin, Intel vice president and assistant general counsel, said in a statement. "Those inventions and the underlying intellectual property are the cornerstone of our business and significant assets. Like any other valuable asset, Intel has an obligation to its shareholders to protect the value of its intellectual property."

Vicious legal wrangling is sort of a holiday tradition between Intel and Via. The companies are the two largest manufacturers of chipsets, which let the processor communicate with the rest of the computer. While Via serves sometimes an active ally of Intel, the two companies compete to land deals with PC makers and motherboard manufacturers.

Intel filed a similar series of lawsuits against Via and a number of companies associated with Via in 1999, after the company came out with a Pentium III chipset. Via, which saw its sales zoom with the new chipset, alleged Intel was merely trying to muscle out a successful competitor.

Eventually, the companies settled the bulk of the lawsuit and entered into a licensing agreement. Intel, however, continues to pursue a claim that the underlying patents in the earlier case are being infringed by chipsets Via manufactures to go with processors from Advanced Micro Devices.