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Nvidia accused of patent violation

Ex-chip maker whips out bus snooping infringement claim

Nvidia has become the latest technology manufacturer to be tackled by an intellectual property holding company.

Mountain View, California-based Opti, inc. today said it had issued a writ against the graphics chip maker, alleging infringement of five patents its owns.

Opti was formerly a chip developer itself, but sold its fabs, distribution and sales operations to San Jose, California-based Opti Technologies, a company related to the first one by name only, in September 2002. Since then Opti's income has come entirely from royalties arising from the sale, but according to US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, those royalties will end this year, Opti's fiscal 2005. The company said it expects to generate future revenue from "royalties or from the licensing of the Company's intellectual property" and, crucially, by "pursuing license revenues from companies we believe are infringing Opti's patents".

In May 2004, Opti's stock was delisted from Nasdaq on the grounds that such a scheme "did not constitute active business operations". During FY2004, which ended 31 March 2004, Opti achieved revenues of $1.1m, all from the Opti Technologies deal. The sale will contribute $52,000 to Opti's bottom line during FY2005, the company said.

The five patents it's challenging Nvidia over include three (5,710,906, 5,813,036 and 6,405,291) entitled 'Predictive Snooping of Cache Memory for Master-Initiated Accesses', filed from 1995 to 2000. Two more (5,944,807 and 6,098,141) are entitled 'Compact ISA-Bus Interface' and were filed between 1996 and 1999. The later covers low pin-count chip packaging.

Opti claims unnamed Nvidia products incorporate technology covered by these five filings, all without permission. As a chip maker, Nvidia thus "induced and contributed" to its customers' infringement of the same patents, Opti alleges.

Other than a request for a jury trial, Opti did not disclose whether its complaint, filed with the US District Court for Eastern Texas, was requesting damages, an injunction against Nvidia products, both, or neither. ®

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