If you thought being sued by SCO for using free software was wild, imagine being sued for having a computer that surpasses 120 MHz.
Patriot Scientific, a small microprocessor-technologies firm based in San Diego, recently announced it had notified more than 150 U.S. companies, including NEC, Sony and Toshiba, that they were potentially infringing on its patents by using chips that ran high speeds.
The patents in question? They're for "high-performance microprocessors having variable speed-system clocks," one of which was approved just last summer. Patriot makes a proprietary 32-bit RISC processor called Ignite and claims its patents gave it ownership of the system.
The company began an "intellectual-property compliance campaign" in 2003, and late last year fielded lawsuits against dozens of companies it claimed were infringing on its patents by using chips that ran higher than 110 MHz to 120 MHz, despite the fact that no exact speeds are mentioned in the patent files. Nevertheless, Patriot says its alleged technology ownership represents a near-$20 billion market in the United States this year.
Sensing it was next on Patriot's list, Intel filed a suit seeking a declaratory judgment to exempt it from Patriot's patent-infringement suit. Soon after, Patriot filed a countersuit and recently upped the ante in April by threatening more than 150 additional companies.
Patriot is strapped for cash and has dropped other product lines while pursuing its intellectual-property crusade. But if the company has its way, it may soon be handing out many a speeding ticket.