Intel has settled patent infringement litigation with rival Cyrix by extending a patent cross-licensing agreement Intel has had since 1976 with National Semiconductor, Cyrix's parent company.
The settlement, which dismissed a patent infringement lawsuit Cyrix filed against Intel in May 1997, allows the companies to develop microprocessors using each other's technology without fear of being sued for patent infringement. Cyrix became a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Semiconductor in November 1997.
"The settlement covers any technology that's covered by patents" at either of the companies, said National Semiconductor spokesman Alan Bernheimer.
Bernheimer would not specify exactly what National Semiconductor and Cyrix plan to do with Intel technology under the extended agreement. Creating a Slot 1-based processor, which is the package design Intel's Pentium II chip uses, "is an option we are considering, but we're not decided at all," he said.
"What is protected within the Pentium II processor is the P6 bus," which governs how the chip and cache interface with other components in the computer, said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy.
"If they were to take their processor and put it in a format that fits with the P6 bus, they would have to take technology that infringes on our patents, [but] we would not sue, because of the cross-license agreement," he said.
Cyrix was previously protected from patent infringement claims by Intel when developing x86 chips, because of a cross-licensing agreement Intel had with IBM, which manufactures Cyrix chips, according to Bernheimer at National Semiconductor.
National Semiconductor will begin manufacturing Cyrix chips in mid-1998, Bernheimer said.
In October 1997, Intel settled its patent disputes with Digital Equipment Corp. by agreeing to buy Digital's semiconductor manufacturing operations for US$700 million, as well as agreeing to a cross-licensing of patents.