Apple Hit With $21.7 Million Judgment in Chip Patent Case

OPTi, a former semiconductor vendor that now exists to license its chipset intellectual property, last week received a US$21.7 million judgment against Apple in a ruling by Judge Chad Everingham in the Eastern District of Texas. In determining that Apple did not willfully violate OPTi’s patent, the judge granted a $19 million infringement reward and an additional $2.7 million in pre-judgment interest.

The outcome is the result of a lawsuit filed in January 2007. It went to trial in April of this year. According to The Register, Apple plans to appeal the ruling, which isn’t a surprise. While the wheels turn on that legal process, Macworld notes that OPTi now has its sights set on AMD, with a lawsuit scheduled to begin against that company next February.

According to a press release on the OPTi web site, Apple violated the company’s 291 patent, “Predictive Snooping of Cache Memory for Master-Initiated Accesses.” OPTi said: “The complaint alleged that Apple infringed the patent by making, selling, and offering for sale various products based on and incorporating Predictive Snooping technology.”

OPTi also noted: “The Apple action itself is a part of the Company’s strategy for pursuing its patent infringement claims relating to its Predictive Snooping technology. Consequently, the final outcome of the Apple case itself will play a role in the Company’s strategy for pursuing its patent infringement claims and the Company’s ability to realize licensing revenue from its Predictive Snoop patents will be significantly affected if the final outcome of the litigation is not successful.”

The abstract of OPTi’s patent number 6,405,291, which was filed in August 2000 and granted in June 2002, says: “When a PCI-bus controller receives a request from a PCI-bus master to transfer data with an address in secondary memory, the controller performs an initial inquire cycle and withholds TRDY# to the PCI-bus master until any write-back cycle completes. The controller then allows the burst access to take place between secondary memory and the PCI-bus master, and simultaneously and predictively, performs an inquire cycle of the L1 cache for the next cache line. In this manner, if the PCI burst continues past the cache line boundary, the new inquire cycle will already have taken place, or will already be in progress, thereby allowing the burst to proceed with, at most, a short delay. Predictive snoop cycles are not performed if the first transfer of a PCI-bus master access would be the last transfer before a cache line boundary is reached.”