View Full Version : Transmeta Sues Intel for Patent Infringement

10 October 2006, 11:59 AM
"Despite bailing out of the x86-based microprocessor business last year, Transmeta Corp. Wednesday (Oct. 11) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Intel Corp.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleges that Intel infringed upon ten of Transmeta's patents. The patents cover computer architecture and power efficiency technologies, according to Transmeta (Santa Clara, Calif.).

The complaint charges that Intel has infringed and is infringing Transmeta's patents by making and selling a variety of microprocessor products, including at least Intel's Pentium III, Pentium 4, Pentium M, Core and Core 2 product lines. The complaint requests an injunction against Intel's continuing sales of infringing products as well as monetary damages, including reasonable royalties on infringing products, treble damages and attorneys' fees"

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10 October 2006, 03:45 PM
More details on the suit from Ars Technica here (

It looks like if Transmeta wants to go after Intel, then it will have to target AMD as well, given some patents involve technologies such as MMX which are present in both Intel and AMD chips. Whether AMD is infringing on as many patents as Intel is remains to be seen, seeing as the inner workings of the chips are more than likely trade secret.

10 October 2006, 04:48 PM
I've never heard of these guys. Looks like just another 'company' looking to strike it rich by claiming intelectual property.

10 October 2006, 05:36 PM
Well, they were a company that did develop their own processors, but started losing lots of money, and instead ditched that idea and focused on IP development, hence their new found interest in collecting royalties on existing IP that they previously didn't enforce.

When IP suddenly becomes your business model, gotta start pushing the suits into gear.

10 October 2006, 06:09 PM
I used to work right next to Transmeta in Santa Clara from 1999-2000... Linus Torvald's (the linux creator) worked there... he's longer with them... he left them in 2003 after working for them for six years... the offices of Transmeta were literally about 4 blocks from Intel HQ...

I've never heard of these guys. Looks like just another 'company' looking to strike it rich by claiming intelectual property.

10 October 2006, 06:30 PM
Transmeta is not "just another unknown company" like somebody said. If you were in the microchip business you would know about them.
You need to understand that most really big companies rely heavily on smaller companies (and universities) to do the conceptual work for them, then they either buy the whole company or just buy intellectual property, apply it to their product, and market the result under their own name. That is why people outside the field have never heard of Transmeta, even though they probably have some Transmeta technology in their computers right now.
It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Transmeta won this one. Many think that just because Transmeta is a small company and Intel is a giant, then Intel must be the one that developed all the cutting edge technology. Wrong. The politics and bureaucracy of a big company can hinder advanced research. Do you know how many engineers in these big companies meet after work over a drink and discuss all the great ideas they have and can't implement at work? Many of them leave and create their own business, places like Transmeta. They don't need to do all the costly lab work, they just need to come up with ideas that work, and sell them to the same big company they just left...

10 October 2006, 07:22 PM
Well in that case, I wish them the best of luck.

10 October 2006, 08:48 PM
This is definitely a pathetic attempt to survive. If no one other than the core development team knows exactly how things work, means Transmeta is shooting in the dark hoping they are right. I guess they figure that they have nothing to lose.

10 October 2006, 10:54 PM
The situation could be one of the following:

1) Transmeta developed that technology and patented it. Intel developed the same technology independenty and didn't check if it had already been patented. In this case Intel has to pay.
2) Same as above but Intel new that the technology was already patented and hoped to get away with it. If that's the case, they still have to pay.
3) It could be that both companies filed for patent around the same time, and it isn't too clear cut who is infringing who. That's for the lawyers to decide.
4) Transmeta, a small company, decides to go into a suicide law suit against giant Intel because they are so broke they don't have anything better to do. Unlikely. Considering the legal expenses involved I really don't see them throwing money away like that.
5) Somebody working in Intel passed to Transmeta and leaked technology that lead Transmeta to patent it. If it can be proved, Transmeta is going to lose, because any technology developed by a company's employee using company resources belongs to that company.
6) Same as above, but somebody from Transmeta went to Intel, in which case Transmeta is right.
7) Intel made a deal with Transmeta to acquire that technology, then went beyond the terms of the contract. Again, Intel has to pay.

I don't know if I missed other scenarios, but either way, I really wouldn't qualify this law suit as frivolous. It will be very interesting to see how it proceeds. I think it is much more likely that a big corporation tries to screw a small one, hoping they will feel intimidated from suing, that a small company wasting money in legal fees in the remote hope of winning. This isn't Joe Schmoe who spills the coffee while driving and sues McDonalds for burning his crotch.

10 October 2006, 11:24 PM
This isn't Joe Schmoe who spills the coffee while driving and sues McDonalds for burning his crotch.

10 October 2006, 01:45 AM

LOL, that's exactly the case I was thinking, which gave rise to the "prestigious" Stella Awards> For the latest winners, see

Who knows, I may be wrong and Transmeta will be nominated for the 2006 awards... you never know... ;)

10 October 2006, 05:52 AM
I think its time the government looked into patent reform. These are just getting rediculous. Here are a list of things I thinkthey should do.

1. Patents have a lifespan of 5 years.
2. If within those 5 years you see a company that infringes on your patent you have 2 years to prosecute them. No more waiting till there deep in it then pouncing type of crap.
3. In-order to patent anything you have to have a working production quality prototype and have the intent of commercializing the product. Otherwise your patents lifespan gets reduced to 3 years and the prosecution time gets redused to 1 year.

Maybe the number of years can be played around with but I think thats fair. Patents are just getting rediculous nowadays especially with technological patents.

10 October 2006, 02:11 PM
I wonder if they're going to include their code-morphing-transforming-thing patent as well. I remember hearing about that when they started Transmeta and it was one of their big features, while I thought "Hey, it's called flashable microcode and Intel has is since I believe the Pentium Pro or P2. Big deal". Sounds like they're trying desperately to survive...

10 October 2006, 11:52 PM
I agree with the poster who said, "If you worked in that industry, you'd have heard of them."

They were a big deal for a while!

They developed a processor which could do instruction-level translation on-the-fly. So, they could essentially use it to natively emulate any other processor. Their internal core was very fast, and also very power-efficient.

The fact that they gave up manufacturing chips and started developing IP-only products doesn't mean anything -- that's what MOST companies in the semiconductor industry do. Only really big companies -- like Intel -- even own fabs these days.


What most likely happened -- if their claim is true -- is that their former employees took some of the ideas with them to Intel. Even though you're supposed to keep trade secrets confidential, it's kinda difficult to distinguish which of your ideas are owned by someone else, and which came from your own brain :-) So, I think it's pretty likely that this happened. Right now, there really aren't any processor companies other than Intel and AMD. So, the people who got laid off from Transmeta went to Intel and some of their ideas "leaked" into Intel's products.

This happens all the time.

Now, in the case of Intel.... they have a track record of doing this sort of thing *intentionally*

Not that any of you will remember this :-), but there used to be a company called DEC -- Digital Equipment Corp. They were very big in the 70's and 80's.

In the 90's, they developed a 64-bit (yes, that's right -- 64-bit!) chip called the Alpha which was twice as fast as anything Intel had. They were waaaaay ahead of Intel at that time.

So what did Intel do? Hire a bunch of their employees and steal their techniques. Why didn't they get sued? Well, as it happened, DEC started going down the toilet, so they sold the Alpha division to Intel. Then, Intel officially owned it -- no potential for lawsuits there.

(The Alpha people also developed the ARM processor, by the way, which is in almost every cell phone, iPod, etc. I think Intel eventually bought ARM, too)

Business is business :-)

I'll bet there's a lot of merit to Transmeta's claims. Maybe Intel will buy them, too...


10 October 2006, 04:27 PM
Good one, vfxdude, at least I am not the only one who is saying this.
I don't know how many of you know the money involved in making chips, I worked in the semiconductor industry for 6 years, and the costs are HUGE, that is really cutting edge technology. If you don't have a chip manufacturing facility like Intel has, you need to get into partnerships with places like Texas Instruments, notoriously hard to work with, and they don't like you to use their multi-million dollar machines just for making your own experiments, unless you pay them big bucks. It is much easier to come up with ideas, and let those who buy those ideas go through the whole chip fab trouble.
Anyway, the semiconductor industry is very closely knit, people go from one company to another, then back to their previous companies, so ideas go around a lot, and IP isn't always clear-cut. Usually these companies don't sue each other, unless they really step on each other's toes. A small company based on IP though can't afford to lose the only asset it has, so it's more likely to sue.

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