The Pentium Strikes Back

The Pentium Strikes Back

Post by Jeroen T. Vermeul » Thu, 19 Jun 1997 04:00:00



Just back from my holiday, I see that events in the Intel Wars have not waited
for me to return since the previous installment (which could be titled "Intel
Wars:  A New Hope").  Intel and DEC are still going to court over possible
infringement of DEC's patents by Intel's Pentium, Pentium with MMX, Pentium Pro,
and Pentium II processors.

As I reported earlier, Intel already seens to have made a first financial move
to hedge against any damage payments that they may be required to make; you'll
find more news about that below.  I also outlined two possible ways for Intel to
strike back with a court case of their own to increase chances of a favourable
settlement:  First option was to find a plausible countercharge against DEC, eg.
an Intel patent that DEC's Alpha might possibly be infringing on, and sue them
back over that.  The other option was to slap together a quick charge against
DEC, with a low probability of success but a noticable "annoyance factor" and
public-relations impact.

It seems that Intel have now chosen the latter option.  They are suing DEC over
"infringement of intellectual property rights" (not a particularly apt
description IMHO, but definitely one that serves their publicity goals better),
having announced this intention the day after the alleged infringement occurred.
Intel claims to have transferred confidential product information to DEC in the
past, and are now asking for that information to be returned to them.  DEC have
apparently refused and in doing so, according to Intel, have violated their
contract with Intel.

No more details were given by Intel, but it's a reasonable guess that these
documents are related directly to Pentium microarchitecture and therefore to the
patents suit. The only particularly likely reason for Intel to suddenly demand
them back is that they contain evidence that Intel would like to withhold from
DEC and from the court.  Thus there may actually be more involved than just
bartering material for a settlement on the multi-billion dollar patents suit:
Intel could be striking at DEC's supply lines, as it were.

So, does Intel have the right to demand these documents back?  If so, does DEC
have the right to retain them?  This would normally depend on the terms of the
contract, but there may be a loophole.  If the documents contain evidence of
possible patent infringements by Intel, then depending on local law and court
approval, DEC may be able to subpoena the documents and hold them back for use
as evidence in court.  This may override any existing contract, just like eg. an
NDA does not apply to covering up possibly illegal practices (Microsoft has long
been suspected of doing exactly this, but in that case intimidation was probably
more of a persuader than actual legal implications).

If DEC is indeed holding the documents under subpoena, this may well cover the
alleged contract violation leaving Intel without a case.  As for the likelihood
of this scenario, DEC has hired a lawyer with impressive experience in patent
suits.  He would certainly have advised DEC to return Intel's documents if they
were obliged to do so, or at least to stall rather than refusing outright like
DEC is said to have done.

Without more detailed information there is no way to be sure about this, so
we'll have to wait and see.  DEC may be keeping these documents to prevent them
from being destroyed by Intel, but more probably this is just a matter of
convenience for them, eg. because they want to continue to study the documents
for their court case.  Given Intel's past secrecy about certain details of
Pentium performance that could be related to DEC's patents, solid evidence may
be hard to come by.

The news about Intel's apparent hedge against losing the case isn't really new,
but something I failed to notice earlier:  As I noted in my previous bulletin,
Intel suddenly reported lower-than-expected revenue, profit margin, and profits
for the second quarter, which if convicted could help them (1) bargain for lower
damage payments to DEC, and (2) save some extra pennies for that rainy day if it
should ever come.  Based on the available information, I didn't think it was
very likely that Intel could really be expecting a drop in profits.

What I just found out is that Intel didn't think it was very likely either.
Intel's announcement predicting reduced revenue and increased expenses for the
second quarter comes just nine days after another announcement of an increase in
dividend payment to stockholders for the third quarter--quoting "solid financial
returns" and "faith in the future to increase our quarterly dividend"!  Is Intel
trying to tell us they evaluated their disappointing sales figures a week
*after* deciding they were doing well enough to scatter a couple more billion
dollars to the four winds in the future?

--
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;  Jeroen T. Vermeulen   \\"How are we doing?"//   Yes, we use Amigas    ;


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For more information, see alt.surprise.announce

 
 
 

The Pentium Strikes Back

Post by Steffen Haeus » Fri, 20 Jun 1997 04:00:00



Hi!

Quote:> Just back from my holiday, I see that events in the Intel Wars have not waited
> for me to return since the previous installment (which could be titled "Intel
> Wars:  A New Hope").  Intel and DEC are still going to court over possible
> infringement of DEC's patents by Intel's Pentium, Pentium with MMX, Pentium Pro,
> and Pentium II processors.

Grin... and what will be the third part... "The Return of the DEC" ? :)

Steffen Haeuser

 
 
 

The Pentium Strikes Back

Post by Jeroen T. Vermeul » Sat, 21 Jun 1997 04:00:00



[ DEC's $15,000,000,000.00-or-so patent infringement suit against Intel ]

Quote:> Grin... and what will be the third part... "The Return of the DEC" ? :)

Something like that, hopefully!

Meanwhile, DEC's legal team has commented on Intel's countersuit.  For those
tuning in to this channel just now, Intel is suing back DEC for breach of
contract, but calling it "infringement of intellectual property rights" for the
obvious publicity purposes.  What DEC's reaction boils down to is:  We're not
surprised, just a little disappointed.  Calling the charge a diversion from the
real issue, they state outright that this is an underhand tactical move by
Intel, not a justified complaint.  Intel's move doesn't make much sense unless
they're guilty and desparate.  They are even asking for damage payments over
something that they're not suffering any damage from!

No mention is made of any subpoena on the documents that Intel is asking back
(something I hypothesized on in my last report as a reason why DEC may be
refusing to return them), although even if the documents contained evidence
about possible patent infringements, it is by no means certain that DEC would
have said so in public.  DEC may want the documents for use in court, or they
may just need them to conduct their everyday business.  In any case, the
official comment is that Intel's charge is "without merit and unjustified",
which I take to be legalese for "there's a fatal flaw in your argument, and
we're not going to help you by telling you what it is".

After mulling it over a little more, I see another possibility where DEC has the
right to retain Intel's documents, even without a subpoena and regardless of
what the contract may say.  As we all know, it is illegal to refuse selling a
commodity product to any one particular customer, eg. in revenge for a lawsuit.
But there are ways of disguising such economic retaliations, and Intel's demand
to have their "confidential product information" back from their customer DEC
may be an example.  As I read DEC's statement, the information may be classified
as product support for Intel's processors, and necessary for building
Intel-based computers.  Denying the use of this information to DEC might make it
impossible for them to produce and sell PCs, which is a large chunk of DEC's
business.  Intel may not be striking at DEC's line of evidence in the patents
suit like I thought initially, but at DEC's ability to operate as a PC
manufacturer.

Perhaps Intel are hoping that this threat is large enough to make DEC reconsider
their patent suit that is threatening to shut down Intel altogether.  If so, the
ploy has already failed.  DEC has announced its intentions to see this out to
the end; obviously they are confident that they can win Intel's countersuit as
well as the actual patent case.  Allow me to speculate some more on what may be
happening.

Let's say that the contract by which the "confidential product information"
documents have been transferred to DEC asserts Intel's right to retrieve them at
any time and without further explanation.  That would make sense for eg.
recalling the documents from all customers if a serious error is found in them.
But by taking the documents away from one particular customer, Intel would
effectively be denying that customer (effective use of) their product, even
after it had already been paid for!

Since that would be an obvious case of Abuse of Rights, DEC's legal team could
argue that reclaiming the documents in this way is not within the intention of
the contract.  Any contract assumes obedience to the law and reasonable
standards, and just because the contract doesn't say you can't do something,
that doesn't mean that you can.  The logical consequence is that breaking Common
Law without literally breaching the formal stipulations of the contract, is
still a violation of the contract.

By this argument, Intel's request that DEC return its copies of the documents
may not be supported by the contract at all.  In that case, Intel will be
looking for a new counterattack in a hurry.  But now that the first rescue
attempt has already been staged and failed, Intel's next move will be seen even
by their staunchest supporters as clutching at straws--and in Wintel World,
nobody likes a loser.

--
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
;  Jeroen T. Vermeulen   \\"How are we doing?"//   Yes, we use Amigas    ;


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Riddle:   One part English one part Greek, half means `tiny' half means `weak'

 
 
 

The Pentium Strikes Back

Post by Dennis Jocobfeuerbo » Tue, 24 Jun 1997 04:00:00



:
: > Grin... and what will be the third part... "The Return of the DEC" ? :)
:
: Something like that, hopefully!
:
: Meanwhile, DEC's legal team has commented on Intel's countersuit.  For those
[VERY interesting information deleted]

Where do you get all this information from ?
PLEASE keep us informed!

Regards,
Dennis

 
 
 

The Pentium Strikes Back

Post by Jeroen T. Vermeul » Sat, 28 Jun 1997 04:00:00



Quote:> :
> : Meanwhile, DEC's legal team has commented on Intel's countersuit.  For those
> [VERY interesting information deleted]

> Where do you get all this information from ?

A combination of keeping a suspicious eye open, an occasionally functional
memory, and *plain dumb luck*.  In the end, the information has to come to me
just as much as I need to find the information.

The memory mainly comes in with those old Intel posts (and Intel-related
threads) on comp.arch.  Some of it was real oddball stuff, and I remembered
because I already thought it looked suspicious at the time.  It's only now, with
the lawsuit, that I can make sense of most of it.

Quote:> PLEASE keep us informed!

Thanks.  It's great to know that people out there are interested.

--
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
;  Jeroen T. Vermeulen   \\"How are we doing?"//   Yes, we use Amigas    ;


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Windows is so user-friendly it's almost human: "EEEK!  A Mouse!"