Digital returns Merced papers to Intel

Digital Equipment Corp. has agreed to return a portion of Intel Corp.'s confidential technical and marketing documents related to its current and future processors.

Intel sued Digital last month for the return of reams of NDA information that Digital and other manufacturers need to plan their long-term strategy. Intel asked for all of its information, but Digital has agreed to return only a portion of it, Intel spokesman Chuck Malloy said today.

He declined to say specifically which portion of its documents Digital has agreed to return, but a Digital spokesman told Reuters earlier today that it will return documents related to Merced, the code-name for Intel's next generation IA-64 processor.

"We have no need for this information and are not participating in developing Intel's much-delayed 64-bit processor," Digital spokesman Dan Kaferle told Reuters.

Kaferle told the news service that Digital will rely on its own Alpha processor, which has been commercially available for about five years.

Analysts were at first stunned at Digital's bold patent infringement case against Intel (which was filed in May) but today were aghast at Digital's assertion that it does not need Merced.

"I'm speechless," said Nathan Brookwood, analyst at Dataquest Inc. in San Jose, Calif.

"Merced represents a major threat to Digital, but Digital is distancing itself from Merced and eliminating any escape paths it might have if Merced is successful."

Since Digital has agreed to return a portion of the documents, it has been able to stave off a court date that may have legally forced it to return all of the documents.

Intel had asked for a court date as soon as possible, but a date is now scheduled for September, Malloy said.

Intel's confidential documents give Digital and other systems manufacturers early access to information on the design andmarketing plans for systems built around Intel processors.

If Digital is left out of the early design process, it will jeopardize its chances to compete with other systems makers for enterprise business when those systems become available, analysts said.