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Patent Suit Targets Dell, Intel

A privately owned chip design firm in Santa Clara, Calif. is taking on Dell and Intel in a Texas courtroom over several alleged patent violations.

MicroUnity Systems Engineering Friday said it has filed its complaint in the United States District Court in Marshall, Texas. The lawsuit alleges that certain Dell computers and Intel's Pentium 3 and Pentium 4 chips infringe on seven of MicroUnity's patents, filed as early as 1995. Four of the patents share a common description, and two were filed only a few years ago. MicroUnity did not specify damages in its filing.

The patents in question cover aspects of multimedia processing and computer architecture such as SSE (Streaming SIMD Extension) and SSE2 multimedia extensions, as well as the HT (Hyper-Threading) features being offered in Dell's and Intel's newest products.

Legal representatives of both Dell and Intel told internetnews.com they had not seen the complaint and refused to comment on the case.

MicroUnity CEO John Moussouris told internetnews.com his company has had limited contact with Intel but declined to talk about the company's relationship with Dell. He said the suit is not an attempt to cash in on a long tucked-away patent.

"This is not a lightweight get rich quick scheme. This has been emerging over time," Moussouris said. "We've assembled a legal team and patent attorney, and we've been taking their advice. Historically, we've been focused more on inventing and licensing our technologies to major U.S. computer and semiconductor manufacturers."

Moussouris, who inveted the RISC architecture and a co-founder of MIPS Computer Systems, said his company received funding from major U.S. corporate investors, but declined to identify either the investors or MicroUnity's customers, citing non-disclosure agreements.

MicroUnity's licensable platform is known as BroadMX, which focuses on broadband algorithms, including low-level modem, source coding and encryption. The company has not yet publicly announced the details of BroadMX. However, it said it is disclosing the complete details privately to customers.

The only other time MicroUnity has been embroiled in a patent suit, according to Moussouris, was in 1997, in its suit against Precim Corp., a subsidiary of Technology Modeling Associates Inc., which Fremont, Calif.-based Avant! acquired in January 1998. That suit was settled out of court.

Moussouris said he's ready to take on Dell and Intel if necessary but is keeping open the company's option to settle out of court.

"Either of those scenarios is alright with us," he said.