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Intel demands plans from Digital

The chip leader files a formal request seeking the return of product plans and strategies given to Digital Equipment.

Intel today filed a request in federal court asking the judge to make Digital Equipment (DEC) return certain product plans before the two companies get embroiled in a highly contentious legal dispute.

Intel made the request in a motion for summary judgment--an immediate decision made by the judge--as part of its countersuit against Digital.

The legal fight between the onetime allies began last month when Digital filed suit against Intel in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts. Digital alleged that Intel willfully infringed upon ten of Digital's microprocessor patents.

In reaction, Intel filed a countersuit in May in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, asking Digital to give back documents relating to the Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium Pro, and other products yet to be announced.

A summary judgment would mean that the Intel suit would never have to go to court but would be decided on the basis of the legal briefs submitted by the parties. Judges grant summary judgment motions begrudgingly, however, and even when they do, they typically give the losing party an opportunity to amend its argument.

The basis of Intel's countersuit is a nondisclosure agreement stipulating that Intel can request the return of its intellectual property at any time for any reason, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. This second suit primarily seeks injunctive, nonmonetary relief.

At this stage of the case, however, Intel is the party with fewer defenses.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy himself said the motion was merely a standard phase in this type of litigation. He added that Intel has yet to file a response to Digital's complaint and that no motion has been made to consolidate the two cases.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.

Digital shrugged off Intel's request to hurry up the proceedings. "Intel's filing of a partial summary judgment motion is another attempt to divert attention from the real issue between the parties -- Intel's infringement of Digital's patent," Digital spokesman Dan Kaferle said.

"We will answer the motion in due course, although it is hard to understand why it was filed. Our view is that the motion is a purely diversionary tactic," Kaferle added.

Digital sells many more Intel chips than its own high-speed Alpha chips. Kaferle said Digital "has strictly observed confidentiality terms under which these documents were provided."

Intel also said in the motion that it does not have an obligation to supply Digital with Pentium chips beyond the third quarter when the purchase order runs out.

"Intel is no more obligated to continue to provide Digital with Intel confidential information than it is obligated to continue to provide Digital with Intel processors," Intel said.

Digital executives have said they have a "long-standing" supply agreement with Intel, which would prevent Intel from cutting off its supply of chips.

Reuters contributed to this report

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