Exponential files $500m suit

Failed chip-maker Exponential Technologies has filed suit against Apple Computer for half a billion dollars. The suit relates to Apple dropping its committment in May to put Exponential's super-fast x704 PowerPC chip in Macintoshes. A single undisclosed buyer successfully bid for all of the failed California chip maker's 45 pending and issued patents. Macintosh circles are tossing around the rumour that the buyer, for $10 million, was Apple Computer, which may wish to produce its own chips containing both PowerPC and x86 instruction sets. Some sources have even speculated that that Exponential believes that Apple may have unfairly allowed the company to die and then bought its patents cheaply.

Failed chip-maker Exponential Technologies has filed suit against Apple Computer for half a billion dollars in damages. The action relates to Apple dropping its committment in May to put Exponential's super-fast x704 PowerPC chip in Macintoshes.

The suit, revealed in a letter to former Exponential employees, cites nine causes of action.

Meanwhile, an Exponential Technologies executive has confirmed that a single undisclosed buyer successfully bid for all of the failed California chip maker's 45 pending and issued patents. Macintosh circles are tossing around the rumour that the buyer, for $10 million, was Apple Computer, which may wish to produce its own chips containing both PowerPC and x86 instruction sets. Some sources have even speculated that Exponential believes that Apple may have unfairly allowed the company to die and then bought its patents cheaply.

Stephanie Dorris, Exponential's acting chief financial officer, has given nothing away beyond confirming that "we did sell it as a whole lot ... It was a pretty healthy set of patents related to x86, RISC, dual-architecture patents."

The patents might also have been snapped up by a vendor interested in developing next-generation chips to compete with Merced, Intel's forthcoming chip, or by a vendor interested in building a x86 chip which doesn't infringe on Intel patents. Alternatively, many observers have suggested that Intel itself bought the patents to forestall competitors.

Chip makers participated in the auction on the condition of anonymity, but Dorris says most of the big chip companies were there.

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