A Texas jury has ordered Intel to pay $2.18 billion for violating two patents that describe mechanisms to minimize chip power consumption.
The patents belong to VLSI Technology LLC, a startup that was created four years ago and which according to Intel has neither a product available nor sources of income beyond these patent infringement lawsuits.
Patent troll in sight?
The patents that the lawsuit indicates have been infringed by Intel previously belonged to the Dutch company NXP Semiconductors, which in turn was spun off from Philips in 2006. NXP acquired these patents when it bought the company Freescale Semiconductor (which in turn was spun off from Motorola) in 2015.
Intel claimed that it had not copied these techniques and that it had created more sophisticated mechanisms to solve the two problems that were contemplated in those patents, but the jury did not appear convinced of that effort.
Intel attorney William Lee explained that VLSI ” took two patents that hadn’t been used in 10 years off a shelf and said, ‘We’d want $2 billion for them. ” For this lawyer, the “scandalous” VLSI lawsuit is a huge burden on “true innovators.” The company will appeal the jury’s decision.
For its part, the VLSI accused Intel of “willful blindness. ” In the United States, someone can be charged with patent infringement even if that person or entity claims that they did not know there were relative patents. The jury saw no willfulness in Intel’s attitude, something that would have raised the award to an even higher amount.
The case again highlights how pejoratively so-called ‘patent trolls’ often act in this way to make money by using patents aggressively : they do not take advantage of such patents to develop products, but rather try to find companies that may have infringed them to sue them.
The case of VLSI Technology LLC is curious because its name is almost identical to that of the mythical VLSI Technology, Inc. that was created in 1979 by engineers from the legendary Fairchild Semiconductor and the Xerox Parc. It ended up being one of the main investors in the creation from ARM Ltd, but their business faded
Philips bought it in 1999, and later NXP parted ways with the parent company and took VLSI with it, which re-emerged as an LLC (a Limited Company) with no apparent products or sources of income, as Intel pointed out. It seems more like a company dependent on NXP but dedicated to litigating with those who try to violate the catalog of patents they have.