Qualcomm Warning: 6 Times Intel Has Sued Competitors Over Chip Designs

Intel's Warning For Qualcomm

Intel on Thursday released a blog post that served as a warning for companies emulating its proprietary x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) without its permission. The post ran a week after competitor Qualcomm announced its intent to provide x86 emulation on Windows 10 ARM-based PCs.

"There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization," said the blog post, which was written by Intel Executive Vice President and General Counsel Steven Rodgers and Director of Systems and Software Research Richard Uhlig.

Intel's past shows that the company is not afraid to bring companies to court over IP rights against infringement by third-party microprocessors. Following are six companies Intel has grappled with over patent disputes.

United Microelectronics Corporation

In 1996, Intel reached a settlement over a patent infringement suit with Taiwanese company United Microelectronics Corp. According to the settlement, UMC agreed to stop making a version of Intel's 486 chip. The Taiwanese company also withdrew its challenges contesting the validity of Intel patents in several countries, including several Asian and European countries, and paid Intel's expenses, which a spokesman said were less than $5 million.


Intel has had a long history of copyright infringement legal battles with rival AMD.

In 1990, Intel sued AMD for copyright infringement related to the code in AMD's 80C287 math coprocessor, and the company then sued again AMD in 1993 for alleged copyright infringement on another AMD processor.

Finally, in 1997, the chip giant filed a lawsuit against AMD and Cyrix around trademark infringement for its MMX media enhancement technology. The suit, which was settled later in the year, alleged that AMD and Cyrix designed strategies to improperly leverage Intel’s investment in the MMX trademark, which could result in confusion in the minds of consumers as they make buying decisions.

Cyrix Corporation

Intel sued Cyrix in 1993 over the right to fabricate x86 designs. The fact that Cyrix had a contract at the time with foundry partner IBM, which sold Cyrix-design chips under the IBM brand, added another layer of complication to the dispute. After reaching a settlement in 1994, Intel agreed to dismiss its patent-infringement claims against Cyrix, while Cyrix would dismiss antitrust and patent misuse claims against Intel. Cyrix was later acquired by National Semiconductor in 1997.

VIA Technologies

Intel sued VIA Technologies in 2003, alleging that VIA's microprocessor and chipset products infringed on its patents.

The companies reached a settlement agreement that year which deemed that both companies would dismiss all pending legal claims in all jurisdictions, and would enter into a 10-year patent cross license agreement covering each company's products. As part of the agreement, Intel granted VIA a license to sell microprocessors that are compatible with the x86 instruction set, but not pin or bus compatible with Intel microprocessors.

Chips And Technologies

In 1992, Intel filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Chips and Technologies, which was selling versions of its 386 microprocessor and its 387 mathematical operations-targeted chip. San Jose, Calif.-based Chips and Technologies and Intel reached a settlement later in the year.

Transmeta Corporation

Intel sued Transmeta Corporation in 2007 after the company claimed to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation techniques. After Transmeta sued Intel in October, claiming that some Intel processors violated its patents, Intel countersued Transmeta for infringing seven patents. Under the settlement agreement, Intel agreed to pay Transmeta $150 million initially and $20 million annually for the next five years. In exchange, the chip company would be granted a right to license Transmeta patents to use in future products.