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MMX trademark fight heats up

Intel secures rights to use "MMX" as a trademark in Japan but AMD moves ahead with plans to ship its "K6 MMX" chip.

Intel (INTC) has made progress in securing rights to use "MMX" as a trademark in Japan, but that isn't stopping Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) from christening its next chip the "K6 MMX" processor.

Intel is suing AMD and Cyrix (CYRX) in the United States in an attempt to trademark the "MMX" moniker and force AMD and Cyrix to attribute this technology to Intel.

This suit was filed just before a major MMX product rollout from AMD next week when the company will introduce what its Web site calls the "AMD K6 MMX Processor."

In Japan--the world's second-largest computer market--the "rights" to use the MMX trademark have been transferred from NEC to Intel, according to an article in Nikkei Byte, a major Japanese computer publication. NEC is the company which originally applied to trademark the name, according to the report. NEC is the largest PC vendor in Japan with about 40 percent of the market.

Intel confirmed that it has obtained the rights to use the MMX trademark from NEC. However, Intel has not yet taken any legal action against AMD or Cyrix in Japan because for the time being it is concerned only with protecting its trademark rights in the United States, an Intel spokesperson said.

As for Intel's suit in the United States, analysts' opinions vary on whether the company can prevail. "I think this is a really dumb battle...Intel is absolutely correct," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at market research firm Dataquest. "You can trademark a combination of letters...that's what a trademark is all about," he added.

Others see it differently. "[Intel's] position that MMX doesn't mean 'Multimedia Extensions' strains credibility," said Michael Slater, publisher of the Microprocessor Report. This assertion is related to AMD's and Cyrix's claim that MMX is a widely used generic acronym for Multimedia Extensions and cannot be trademarked.

Intel said a hearing is scheduled for April 29 to decide Intel's request for a temporary injunction against AMD and Cyrix. If Intel prevails, AMD and Cyrix would likely be forced to drop their use of MMX as a part of their marketing or attribute the technology to Intel each time they refer to it.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.