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Intel countersues Transmeta

Patent fight between chip giant and smaller rival over power-saving tech takes another twist
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Written by Colin Barker, Senior Reporter on

The legal conflict between Intel, the world's largest supplier of microprocessors, and small rival Transmeta took another twist on Tuesday when it emerged that Intel is countersuing Transmeta.

The battle started in October 2006 when Transmeta first launched a suit against Intel claiming that Intel violated 10 of its patents. Transmeta was looking for a massive payout from Intel. According to its claim, the intellectual property behind these patents is embodied in $100bn (£51bn) worth of chips sold by Intel.

The claim covers a wide range of microprocessors, including the Pentium Pro, Pentium II and Core 2 Duo processors.

Now, according to an Associated Press report on Thursday, Intel is denying Transmeta's claims and lodged a countersuit claiming that its smaller rival has infringed on seven Intel patents covering microprocessors and power-efficiency technologies. This area is now drawing a huge amount of interest, as manufacturers demand high-performance computers that don't overheat or require large cooling systems.

An Intel UK spokesperson declined to comment on the countersuit.

In its original action, Transmeta alleged that Intel infringed on one of its patents when it inserted a technology called "enhanced SpeedStep" into its models. Enhanced SpeedStep essentially slows down a chip when not in use to cut power consumption.

Transmeta was the first company to emphasise that power consumption would be a major headache for chip and computer makers. It claimed that its Crusoe processors would be able to run the same software as Intel chips, but consume less electricity, thus leading to longer battery life.

Since making an immediate splash in such a topical area of computing, Transmeta has found life increasingly difficult. According to its latest financial numbers, revenue in the third quarter of 2006 declined to $13.2m (£6.8m), from $19.6m in the third quarter of 2005.

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