Intel says AMD's foundry spin-off can't have its patents

Here's a hitch in AMD's plans.

Back in 2001, AMD and Intel did some cross licensing of various patents. I'm not sure what Intel gave AMD, but AMD says it gave Intel rights to use some of its IP on 64-bit architecture extentions, integrated memory controllers, and multi-core architecture.

Now Intel says that the structure of the deal that produced AMD's Dresden-based foundry jv, Global Foundries, breaches the deal. Intel says the foundry deal "could result in the loss of licenses and rights granted to AMD by Intel."

As you might expect, statements from both companies involved a lot of huffing and puffing.

Intel implied that AMD was trying to hide something from you (the public):

Intel has asked AMD to make the relevant portion of the agreement public, but so far AMD has declined to do so.

I'm quite sure that if I'd asked either company about the details of this agreement 1 month ago neither of them would cough it up. So for Intel to try to claim that they want the information in the open is a little silly. As a journalist, I'm all for more information, but for AMD to release this info might be like posting a sign outside Fab 1 in Dresden saying: "These are the things we cannot do."

Another choice moment from the Intel release was this:

In response to the notification AMD claimed Intel breached the agreement by notifying AMD of its breach.

AMD's Michael Silverman made that sound a little less ridiculous, essentially saying that it wasn't the notification, but the "attempt to terminate AMD's license" that put Intel in breach. He also wrote that "Should this matter proceed to litigation, we will prove that Intel fabricated this claim to interfere with our commercial relationships and thus has violated the cross-license."

Of course, AMD's statement, wasn't free from it's share of saber-rattling and over-the-topped-ness:

Here's the saber-rattling:

The AMD/Intel cross-license agreement is a two-way agreement, the benefits of which go to both companies. Intel leverages innovative AMD IP critical for its product designs under the cross license. This includes AMD patents related to 64-bit architecture extensions, integrated memory controller, multi-core architecture, etc.). ...

In fact, we informed Intel that their attempt to terminate AMDâ''s license itself constitutes a breach of the cross-license agreement, which, if uncured, gives AMD the right to terminate Intelâ''s license.

And here's the over-the-topped-ness:

Again, we believe that Intel manufactured this diversion as an attempt to distract attention from the increasing number of antitrust rulings against it around the world. With a ruling from the European Commission and a U.S. trial date looming, and investigations by the U.S. FTC and NY Attorney General, the clock is ticking on Intelâ''s illegal practices - and yet with its dominant monopoly position it still tries to stifle competitors.

That'd be a pretty lame distraction, I think. Again, speaking as a journalist, if European and American regulators come down on Intel demanding a whole bunch of redress for past wrongs, I don't even think this cross-license problem will merit a half of a paragraph.

I think Intel is doing this for much more straightforward reasons. It's certainly not in that company's interest to see viable a 45-nm and (someday) 32-nm fab just as its own efforts at breaking into the embedded systems space are ramping up. So it will use any (legal, one hopes) means to hold back GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

All that said, this did make me wonder if all of GLOBALFOUNDRIES and AMDs ducks really were in a row. In particular I wondered if Innovative Silicon's license for Z-RAM went to GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

And that made me wonder about the future of silicon-on-insulator technology (one of the big reasons to use Z-RAM). In refreshing my memory about GLOBALFOUNDRIES, I noticed that the 32-nm line they're working on is for bulk silicon, not silicon-on-insulator.

Advertisement

Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

Advertisement