Intergraph sues Intel over Itanium

Technology from C5 Clipper chip ended up in Intel's next-generation processor, says US chip company

Workstation manufacturer Intergraph has filed a new patent lawsuit against Intel, claiming that the world's largest semiconductor company used patented Intergraph technology in its new line of Itanium high-end server processors.

Itanium, based on the IA-64 platform developed by Intel and Hewlett-Packard, officially launched earlier this year after delays and testing. It uses the EPIC (explicitly parallel instruction computing) instruction set, which the lawsuit claims conflicts with 1993 Intergraph patents relating to instruction routing and parallelism.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court (Eastern District of Texas). Intergraph also filed suit against Intel in 1997, claiming that Intel used Intergraph patents in the Pentium line of processors. The 1997 suit is still awaiting a trial date, and Intergraph says it is unrelated to the Itanium suit.

The Alabama-based company and Intel have been involved in a tangle of intellectual property disputes related to a US anti-trust investigation. In 1998, for example, a court found that Intel may have violated trust laws by withholding information from Intertrust, only to later reverse the ruling.

Intel could not be reached for comment.

Intergraph says that Itanium specifically infringes two patents for technology developed in 1992 by Intergraph's Advanced Processor Division for the C5 Clipper microprocessor. The patents cover parallel instruction computing (PIC) techniques used to convey parallelism to hardware and a method of routing instructions to processing units, according to Intergraph.

In 1993 Intergraph scrapped development of the C5 Clipper chip in favour of a line of Pentium-based workstations.

"Intel's Itanium-based products, which are just now becoming commercially available, infringe upon Intergraph's patented PIC technology, developed almost a decade before Intel introduced the Itanium," said Intergraph chairman and chief executive Jim Taylor in an official statement.

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