Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

Summary: Mobile chipmaker Via Technologies has sued Apple for violating three of its microprocessor-related patents. The folks in Cupertino may have problems with this one.

TOPICS: Legal, Apple

Updated: Patent infringement lawsuits are thrown around so often in the technology business that we have begun tuning them out. Every day we hear of Apple suing some competitor, or those competitors going after Apple. It's become so commonplace that we realize it is just a card game to keep everyone in place. The suit filed yesterday by Via Technologies may end up giving Apple more trouble than all of those smartphone suits combined.

Virtually all of the patent infringement claims we have seen are all designed to be used as trading cards to stop potential future cases. Most of the suits involve smartphone technology, as all of the companies playing the patent game build smartphones. That is what makes the Via suit unique, and why it may spell trouble for Apple.

Via doesn't make smartphones, it doesn't make consumer electronics products at all. It is a chipmaker that competes with Intel and AMD, not Apple. So why go after Apple? One, because Apple is a big dog with lots of cash. Two, Apple makes its own chips used in the products the suit claims infringes on Via's patents. The three patents Via claims are being infringed by Apple:

  • US Patent No. 6253312, Method and apparatus for double operand load
  • US Patent Nos. 6253311 & 6754810, Instruction set for bi-directional conversion and transfer of integer and floating point data

Notice those are microprocessor related? Via claims Apple infringes on these patents with nearly its entire mobile product line: iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV. What do these have in common? Apple makes its own processor for them.

I am not an attorney but this doesn't smack of just trying to give Apple trouble. I would think that Via did its due diligence and believes it has a solid case to prove the infringement. Since Via doesn't compete directly with Apple's affected products, it's safe to assume that Via is not just trying to create a legal stalemate to head off possible future litigation from Apple. No, it sounds like Via is in it to prove Apple is in fact infringing, and then collect damages.

Apple has sold hundreds of millions of these products combined. A settlement would be massive should Via prevail.

The courts will have to decide who is in the right with this, but Via's CEO Wenchi Chen intends to go the distance as this statement given to ZDNet makes clear.

"VIA has built up an extensive IP portfolio consisting of over 5,000 patents as a result of significant investments in world class technology research and development."

"We are determined to protect our interests and the interests of our stockholders when our patents are infringed upon."

Update: Eagle-eyed colleague Ed Bott just pointed me to one not very obvious fact. Via Chairman Cher Wang is also the Chairman of HTC, heavily involved in patent litigation with Apple. This is getting interesting, and may end up being a patent playing card exchange move after all. Thanks, Ed!

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Topics: Legal, Apple

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  • Maybe he's trying to get bought?

    • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

      I don't think neither HTC nor VIA are near bankruptcy to seek money from Google unlike the other OHA partner of Google, MMI.
      Ram U
      • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

        Maximize Shareholder value? Cash out on stock options? Just wondering, not making a fact claim.
      • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

        @Rama.NET : I think @WebSiteManager might be right. VIA was a huge player on the embedded processor market, back in the days before Intel Atom. It's processors competed with ARM but were able to run x86 instruction sets (albeit very slowly), so had advantage for compatibility sakes (primarly DOS inspired embedded apps).

        Today they still are a player with their VIA Nano but so far have been eclipsed by Atom, which ultimately is faster, although it won't support out of order instructions.

        HTC is a mayor Google partner. Maybe selling VIA patent portfolio to Google will increase the leverage this has against Apple.
      • Jeringas agujas

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    • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

      VIA is not a US company. and maybe no investors the like of SUN's had...
      • For us in Taiwan

        we know this all along, that VIA and HTC have the same chairman. When I saw the first report on zdnet yesterday, I was like hoho, Wang is going to bring it on!
      • Botiquin

        Very good post, waiting your next posting always
    • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

      I am design a 3G trip ckt...
      sir plz help me...
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      • Botiquin

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    • For every bully (Apple) ....

      ...there is always someone to take them down!
  • Apple

    Couldn't Apple just got out and acquire VIA ?? seems easier...
    • No point; Apple's CPU in SoC A5 are licensed from ARM, so the lawsuit is ..

      @Hasam1991: ... in vain.
      • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

        @DeRSSS I thought that would be the case.
      • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

        @DeRSSS That they have a license from ARM is irrelevant. These are OTHER patents, not from ARM.
    • RE: Via patent suit may give Apple the most trouble

      @Hasam1991 or maybe Apple could just make great products and quit suing people?