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Intel Sued Over Core 2 Duo Patent Infringement

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the patents-are-such-a-mess dept.

Intel 216

An anonymous reader writes "It looks like Intel is being sued over a patent infringement alleged to be in the Core 2 Duo microprocessor design. 'The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is charging Intel Corporation with patent infringement of a University of Wisconsin-Madison invention that significantly improves the efficiency and speed of computer processing. The foundation's complaint identifies the Intel CoreTM 2 Duo microarchitecture as infringing WARF's United States Patent No. 5,781,752, entitled "Table Based Data Speculation Circuit for Parallel Processing Computer." WARF contacted Intel in 2001, and made repeated attempts, including meeting face-to-face with company representatives, to offer legal licensing opportunities for the technology.' The text of the complaint [PDF] is also available via WARF's site."

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SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22353988)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
enjoy a goatse Friday [goatse.ch]

Eat any good books lately? (4, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#22353998)

I feel strangely compelled to say: "Captain, I protest! I am not a merry man!"

Huh? (5, Funny)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354000)

What has the Son of Mog done this time?

Re:Huh? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354084)

That should be modded Funny, more than Offtopic.

WARF quickly became Worf (Star Trek) in my head, soon followed by swordplay...

[ot] comic-store-guy says: (5, Funny)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355046)

With every due respect this shouldn't be 'funny'. This is a geek site, and we have standards to uphold: *Worf* is the son of *Mogh*.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354300)

It's "Mogh".

If you do that again, I'll revoke your geek pass!

Re:Huh? (2, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354392)

No, that's Barf, short for Barfolomew. He's a mog. Half man, half dog.

Re:Huh? (1)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354438)

GIMME PAW! now excuse me while i go plaid

Re:Huh? (2, Funny)

EntropyXP (956792) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354462)

Picard: Mr Warf, raise shields!!
Warf: Captain, shields are not responding, a patent troll seems to have infested the system.
Picard: Well, I'll be in the captain's room, changing my shorts.

Re:Huh? (1)

cstdenis (1118589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354982)

Thats Mogh.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355196)

I bet they are also pretty lucky that they are not in Beverlyhills...

Another good example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354048)

...of why patents are bad.

Re:Another good example... (1, Redundant)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354130)

Patents (copyright, trademarks, etc) are not bad, they give credit where credit is due...

its most (but not all) of the laws surrounding patents and copyrights, that are bad.

Re:Another good example... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354478)

Patents (copyright, trademarks, etc) are not bad, they give credit where credit is due...
So you think the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association or "WARF" or whatever it's called actually came up with this invention? Or maybe was it some grad students at the UofW who did all the work and got zilch for their trouble?

As long as patents, copyrights, etc. can be bought and sold, they are NOT about "credit where credit is due".

Re:Another good example... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354650)

Even if you sell a Copyright, the original creator, still has Moral Rights...

"Moral Rights" consist of "I Mr. Whoever Made This" aswell as the ability to object to the use of the "Object" the caopyright protects.

Therefore, its credit where credit is due... it just doesnt apply to "credit" as in "the intention to pay" money.

Re:Another good example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354792)

WARF holds the patent, but the students and professors will be the ones listed as inventors. They will receive royalties if Intel is forced to obey the law.

Re:Another good example... (4, Informative)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354986)

You very obviously do not know how tech transfer offices work. In this case, the money from licensing technology assigned to WARF is divided up among 1) the inventors 2) the lab the invention came out of 3) the department and 4) to WARF.

A quick view of the WARF website has a whole page on the royalty distribution: http://warf.ws/inventors/index.jsp?cid=14&scid=40 [warf.ws]

Of significant note:

The inventors receive 20 percent of the gross royalty revenue generated by a licensed invention. Payments are made to the inventors in the month following the receipt of the royalty payment.

You could at least get your complaints right.

Re:Another good example... (1)

Pojodojo (930080) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355086)

You should really do more research before you start making accusations.

WARF was established because the researchers don't have time to mess with patent lawyers and royalty issues. The "Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation" (WARF) has the sole purpose of filing and protecting the discoveries of the Universities Faculty and Students. They inventors receive compensation from WARF for their discoveries, however in academia, it is more important to have your name recognized with the discovery than to get tons of money from it. Most of the money goes back into research, which is why the University of Wisconsin consistently ranks highly in the top Research Institutions of the World.

Not a Troll then? (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354052)

I have been slashdot conditioned to think that every patent suit is a patent troll trying to collect on obvious ideas from big companies. But from the background on the story, it would seem that this is not the case and that it has been on-going since 2001. That's a very long time to mess around before resorting to a law suit. How long does a patent last?

Re:Not a Troll then? (4, Insightful)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354114)

"We are disappointed with Intel's lack of response in resolving this matter, and while we were not anxious to use the courts to enforce our patent rights, we have no other recourse given our duty to protect the intellectual property of our inventors and the university."
It also says that the patent was granted in '98, so I think they (WARF) were being pretty fair about things thus far.

Re:Not a Troll then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354656)

Kudos for the Mitch Hedberg sig, I would've added --Mitch Hedberg after that to give credit though. RIP Mitch.

And yes, go ahead and mod this off-topic.

Re:Not a Troll then? Maybe Intel won't respond (0, Offtopic)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355366)

until they realize that WARF is SKULLfuc*ing them...?

Re:Not a Troll then? (1)

paitre (32242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354126)

17-20 years from time of issuance, IIRC.

This is, of course, why software patents are bad - they're usually obviated in fewer than 5.

Re:Not a Troll then? (2, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354154)

It's probably not a good idea to generalize about any subject from stories that get posted here, but while WARF is certainly not a "patent troll" by the proper definition of the term, they are extremely aggressive about broadly enforcing their stem cell patents, and it wouldn't surprise me if this is more of the same.

Actually, I'm curious why the only two coherent posts at the time of this writing are jumping to the defense of this patent; one of them noting that he hasn't read the link but that nonetheless "it sounds like this patent might actually be a reasonable one". Normally everyone would be jumping in with thoughts like "Isn't a washing machine prior art?"

Now that you mention it... (2, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354544)

I am against universities holding patents period. How much of that patent was obtained using public funds? How much should go back to the public when the settlement comes in? How much of their licensing fees they gain from other patents are returned to the public from which it came?

Universities have seen the patent system as the cash cow it is and haven't thought this through.

Re:Now that you mention it... (3, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354672)

To be fair, I think universities should be granted patents, if only to look good on walls and recognize commitments. But they should be made publicly available if the university benefits from public funds. Especially in this case, where the idea seems novel, and non obvious.

Re:Now that you mention it... (4, Insightful)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354744)

How much is returned to the public? WARF has put almost $1 billion back into research at the University ($50 million last year) and supported 1500 seperate research projects last year. Not to mention that there are 1000's of people employeed around the state in the private sector at small biotech companies and other firms developing products off of WARF licensed technologies.

Re:Now that you mention it... (1)

Ced_Ex (789138) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355006)

How much is returned to the public? WARF has put almost $1 billion back into research at the University ($50 million last year) and supported 1500 seperate research projects last year. Not to mention that there are 1000's of people employeed around the state in the private sector at small biotech companies and other firms developing products off of WARF licensed technologies.
Though, my question is, of those 1500 research projects, how many of them came to a new radical conclusion, or provided information that is useful?

When I was doing research, I remember only a very small percentage of research actually provided something useful. Most research proved nothing, or just confirmed what we already knew. This research however was in medical sciences, so I'm not sure exactly how much can translate to engineering type research, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were similar.

Re:Now that you mention it... (4, Informative)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354772)

I work at a university and from what I understand most of the patents/patent research is not done with public money - most research money is private. At least in my department and related departments. Actually about 90% of our department's entire funding is from private research money.

Re:Now that you mention it... (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355132)

That means your university has been corrupted to the point that you can't even recognize that it was once intended to be a public institution. It has been so polluted with private money, and has so normalized its operations to depend on that private money, that it is unfit to serve the purpose for which it was created. It's just a means of generating more scarcity and leverage now.

Re:Now that you mention it... (2, Insightful)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355264)

Or it means the university doesn't want to listen to people bitch about spending public money on things they don't support. Yeah, the university that is self-sufficient on private funds instead of wasting public money is certainly "corrupted". The purpose of the university is education and companies funding research privately is providing just that. Research money is soley used for, wait for it - research. The university is not "dependent" on this money for normal operation. If they don't get private research money, they don't do the research. It's not like they spend the university operating budget on research. If there is no research money, there is no research.
I think your tinfoil hat is a little tight today...

Funding sources and patents (1)

kwahoo (899178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355282)

Funding source is highly dependent on field. In CS and ECE, the majority, probably the vast majority, comes from the NSF, DoD, and DOE.

It may seem that research funded with public money should provide the technology for the greater good, but the Bayh-Dole Act allows U's to get patents. Regardless of whether you like this or not, one point in its favor is that it prevents a company from effectively "stealing" such ideas by getting their own patents on all the conceivable extensions of the university's research.

Re:Now that you mention it... (2, Interesting)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355092)

First, federal law requires that inventions made with federal funds must either be commercialized by the inventing institution or given up to the government (the gov't can then decide not to take title and title reverts to the inventor). It's called Bayh-Dole. Allowing title to revert to the government or the inventor is not particularly good results. Well funded tech transfer offices are much better at getting technology to licensees than either the federal government or the inventor. Besides, the federal government gets a royalty-free license to use the technology for its own purposes, a nice benefit to the US government.

Second, in this case, WARF actually contributes significantly to both the University of Wisconsin Madison (a state school) and to the inventors, inventing laboratory and inventing department. You can read about the process here: http://warf.ws/inventors/index.jsp?cid=14&scid=40 [warf.ws]

Third, WARF has been at this for a very long time. They're a very sophisticated patenting and licensing entity. They have definitely thought this through. According to their website, they are also not in the business of patenting every idea that every professor discloses to them (they say 60% of disclosures, but who knows).

Furthermore, they're a great asset to those inventors without the means to pursue licensing and patent protection on their own. Inventors pay nothing up front for what is otherwise a very expensive, time consuming ordeal.

Re:Now that you mention it... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355250)

Actually, I see this as a good thing. "What is good for the goose is good for the gander."

Maybe if enough companies get stung (can't compete) by the limitations of the insane patent laws, then they will be more compelled to remove them.

Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354180)

Well, I've noticed that when it's an educational institution, then it's not a troll. Filed by a lawyer in Marshall, Texas means troll for sure though. These rules are weird. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Although, you should note that a couple decades ago, universities were not well funded so some senators passed a bill that would allow them to keep patents. Why not, they do the research? Today, universities are still building those portfolios [uspto.gov] . So the joke is kind of on the companies. If they were smart, they should have been dumping millions into universities in the form of donations to keep patents in the corporate sector.

You can bet that as you start to see what was once cutting edge theory be implemented the universities will have the last laugh and hopefully the most cash. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing it any other way but I'm still paying off my college loans. It would make me a happy man to see an HD DVD/Blu Ray player cost $100 more while poor people can go to college for virtually free. But I think a lot of people would call me some sort of communist for that and that I'd be stagnating the economy or some such theory that I can't comprehend. Regardless, I'd be willing to buy shares in certain universities if I could. Imagine what those portfolios are going to start to bring in in revenue!

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354310)

It would make me a happy man to see an HD DVD/Blu Ray player cost $100 more while poor people can go to college for virtually free.
"Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too."

Actually, I don't think education can be a bad thing. Indoctrination, on the other hand...

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (1)

j79zlr (930600) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354490)

I wish I was a "ditch digger." I have an engineering degree, which apparently entitles me to such things as straight no time-and-a-half overtime and less wage than any unskilled union laborer.

Would I be happy digging ditches, probably not, but it does get a little daunting when everyone I know who went to college makes less than those who didn't.

Can I really be this bitter? I am only 28.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354756)

I hear ya. I was a laborer with a utility contractor for a few summers and we actually were ditch diggers, now I'm an engineer with a consulting firm. I sometimes miss being a laborer and occasionally wish i were doing that again. I was in shape, made good money, and was home by 3 everyday (though we started at 6). Now, I never know when I'll be home, I sit on my butt all day long in front of a computer, and the only shape I'm in now is round.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354936)

I have an engineering degree, which apparently entitles me to such things as straight no time-and-a-half overtime and less wage than any unskilled union laborer.

...It does get a little daunting when everyone I know who went to college makes less than those who didn't.

Your college degree in engineering does not mean that you automatically provide valuable engineering services to a company.

Your engineering degree only entitles you to write "I have an Engineering Degree" on your job applications. After that, it's up to you to land a good job, impress the right people, earn raises and promotions, or create an invention and monetize it, etc.

If you're truly making less wage than any "unskilled union laborer", then perhaps your business skills are lacking? You might be a genius engineer, but it still takes business smarts to turn that into a profit for you.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (1)

j79zlr (930600) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355158)

Union labors here in Chicago make over $33/hour. That is a base salary of $68,640 which does not include pension, sick time or medical, thats another $10-15 an hour or so. You are now looking around $100k a year. Now add in overtime pay.

Don't believe me, here is the latest union wage rates for Cook County, pdf warning, http://www.dot.state.il.us/wagerates/011808/area1.pdf [state.il.us]

My compensation is right in line with my field and experience and right along the same lines as my colleagues, none of us make even $80k. My point is that those "ditch diggers" although frowned upon apparently, probably make more that most do. How many college graduates do you know that start off earning much higher than $50,000?

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Insightful)

halber_mensch (851834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355226)

Your college degree in engineering does not mean that you automatically provide valuable engineering services to a company.

I wish I had points for you. These days every kid out of high school seems to be shuffling off to college with mom and dad's credit card to get a business management or marketing degree, boozing it up on thursday nights and missing tests on friday mornings, with every expectation that when they finally get through their 4 years of drunken stupor they will emerge into a world that wants to throw money at them for being so highly educated and accustomed to privilege. In reality, however, the degree itself is usually in and of itself simply a free pass to the interview, not an indication of ability.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354558)

We are all special, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354390)

Just because it's not a troll doesn't mean it's a good patent. It may be that the solution is obvious to one "skilled in the art" even though no one seriously considered the problem before. Just because the university thought of it first doesn't mean it's a good patent.

Of course, I haven't looked at the details of the patent or the case. It may well be a blatant attempt by Intel to rip off a clever idea from the university. My guess is that reality is somewhere in between...

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354456)

The way I see it, if you offer to license a technology and then five years later, the company starts using that technology in a new design without licensing it, chances are, the person who holds the patent is not a patent troll. Patent trolls patent something obvious, wait in silence for somebody to do what is covered by their patent, then offer to license and/or sue. If they're offering to license it before the company they're trying to license it to thinks of the idea, unless the idea is fairly trivial, they aren't trolls....

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354460)

W You can bet that as you start to see what was once cutting edge theory be implemented the universities will have the last laugh and hopefully the most cash. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing it any other way but I'm still paying off my college loans. It would make me a happy man to see an HD DVD/Blu Ray player cost $100 more while poor people can go to college for virtually free.

As someone who once was a collegiate instructor and employee, I can say for certain that no self-respecting board-of-regents-member college would even think of lowering tuition, for any reason. Scholarships, sure... as long as the money comes out of somebody else's wallet. Student financial aid? Again, they love it - but on the same premise as Scholarships. Work-Study programs? Okay, but it's the equivalent of getting offshore-priced labor on their part.

No, my friend... no way in Hell you'd ever see a Uni drop tuition pricing in response to a flush of patent-money. They'd rather spend the dough on a new football stadium, or on perks for the tenured and administration.

The one and only condition that would see a tuition price drop is in response to a drop in head-count, or in response to any new competition (e.g. University of Phoenix opening a new campus in the same town or city...)

/P

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (5, Interesting)

arcanelogic (1235884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354510)

I happen to recognize two of the patent owners: Andreas Moshovos and Gurindar Sohi. Guri in particular is an established member of the Computer Architecture research community. He's worked on many different aspects of speculation in hardware. The claim in the patent infringement is that the work on "Table-based Speculation.." was presented at Intel and attempts were made by the authors to negotiate a license for the technology. It wouldn't surprise me if there's some merit to this claim.

Important point (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354718)

I hope you get modded up, this is a very important point to note. Established researchers in the field, presented their work at Intel, definitely sounds like there is some merit to the claim.

Socialist games Are Good (Sometimes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354724)

"Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing it any other way but I'm still paying off my college loans. It would make me a happy man to see an HD DVD/Blu Ray player cost $100 more while poor people can go to college for virtually free."

I suppose as long as we play shell game economics. Ideas like this will always be popular. Good thing someone came up with Scholarships and Grants.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (3, Interesting)

rbmyers (587296) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354810)

It would take a whole lot more than reading that patent, and a whole lot more than reading Hennessey and Patterson, to know if Wisconsin had something it could collect on. That is to say, you'd have to know a detailed history of work in the field. That would mean being familiar with dozens of IEEE and ACM journal articles, something a patent examiner in Washington would never have time to do. That is to say, aggressive schemes for instruction parallelism is a huge body of work, and the patentability of the idea as a matter of fact is surely to be in dispute. The fact that Hennessey and Patterson attributes the idea to Wisconsin, Madison is a big piece of evidence, but not necessarily dispositive. Wisconsin has been a big player in this kind of work, and they (obviously) have graduates at Intel. In any case, the authors Hennessey and Patterson would be in a fairly select group of people who could offer authoritative comment. Then there is the question of whether the Intel design actually infringes. Finally, it's worth noting that many patent disputes likes this one are settled by cross-licensing. Without such practices, Intel, IBM, and AMD and who knows who else would probably be in court endlessly. Companies collect patents as a way of fending off lawsuits like this one. That tactic doesn't work, though, with organizations that don't make anything, in which respect, a university is disturbingly similar to a patent troll. That is to say, whether universities are good guys or not, they can have the same kind of disruptive effect as patent trolls, because they have no incentive not to sue, other than the cost of lawyers. The lawyers take the case on contingency fee and the lawyers are the patent trolls. The fact that the patent belongs to a university in the end means very little.

Re:Universities Are Good (Sometimes) (2, Interesting)

bmajik (96670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354872)

It would make me a happy man to see an HD DVD/Blu Ray player cost $100 more while poor people can go to college for virtually free. But I think a lot of people would call me some sort of communist for that and that I'd be stagnating the economy or some such theory that I can't comprehend.


Well, yeah, the way this is normally discussed, the conversation usually turns towards someones irrational communist leanings about how "some people" should pay for "everybody else" to go to college. Nevermind that not everyone ought to go to college at all, much less because others were forced at gunpoint to pay for it.

But that's not what I'm replying to you for..

Regardless, I'd be willing to buy shares in certain universities if I could. Imagine what those portfolios are going to start to bring in in revenue!


This is actually brilliant, and is quite the opposite of communism. And infact this may very well be the answer to the problem you're talking about in the first part of your post.

Universities currently get a fair bit of financing from private donors, from athletics, and from taxes. So much of tuition is subsidized for one reason or another that lots of people go that perhaps ought not to. There's a demand glut, so to speak, and so there is little incentive for a university to do anything other than expand and raise prices.

A very nice thing about what you suggest is that that investment revenue can be re-invested by the university, for the university, to fund scholarships for promising students. Top flight schools like MIT effectively have this arrangement -- if you get into MIT (because of your qualifications), you WILL be able to afford it, because a variety of interested university backers will see that the money appears.

Generalizing this a bit, a university with disposable income from the past results of its research may have an incentive to recruit promising new talent and thus subsidize the education of the best and brightest minds.

And all of this would be done without coercion by the state. Different universities would have entirely different criteria for who they beleive is promising, and how they think their scholarship money ought to be spent.

This is part of a solution of how people go to college without making society at large pay for just anybody to go for any reason. Investors will choose which universities to invest in, based on selection criteria, past performance, etc, and that will tend to cause universities to spend their money a bit more wisely.

There are a variety of other privatized education funding models discussed by Friedman, etc, but this one is one I've not thought about before. Thanks for mentioning it.

Re:Not a Troll then? (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354188)

In South Africa a patent needs to be renewed on a yearly basis. Not sure about over on your side of the pond meh. In any case it would seem as if Intel was trying to wear these guys down, or let the patent lapse.

Either way, it's refreshing to see patent laws working in favor of legitimate complainants for a change...

Re:Not a Troll then? (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355064)

Not every patent is a troll. And I have no clue if this one is or not.

But when I saw this the thought came to me. The very same companies that support the patent system and produce a product are going to get sued out of existence. Or end up raising the costs of their products. An example, say $100 for the processor, and $60 for lawyers and $50 for patent charges, total $210 per processor.

Now what is going to happen is the Intel's and the Microsoft companies are going to realize all a long, /.ers are right. Scrap the patent system or modify it so the patent has to be significant and revolutionary. Not just some twist on an existing technology. Which is really the problem here.

And if I was a CEO of a tech company, I would move off shore to a country that does not value the needless waste of court time and moneys. And setup a US subsidiary that can pass on the costs to US residents while the rest of the world does not have to pay. If they do not, the competition might do it for them.

It is nice to see the big boys caught in their own traps.

Could this one be legit? (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354056)

I haven't read the article, and doubt I would have any chance of understanding the details of the patent, but from the summary it sounds like this patent might actually be a reasonable one: it's a particular method for increasing speed in a particular part of a processor, not "a patent on speeding up computers".

For once, might the patent system actually be doing what it's supposed to?

Dan Aris

Re:Could this one be legit? (4, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354108)

"For once, might the patent system actually be doing what it's supposed to?"

Clearly not, if these people had to fight Intel for 7 years and still haven't gotten a cent for licensing.

Re:Could this one be legit? (1)

Reverse Gear (891207) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354138)

I haven't RTF yet, but I think you are right, this one might very well be legit.

Just the fact that this is about the microprocessor design and not about software makes it sound much more sensible than much of the other patent crap that is coming up here on /.

Re:Could this one be legit? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354394)

Well, a lot of the software patents are obvious because a lot of Slashdotters work with software and can tell on the face of something if its something you would have come up with in 5 minutes given the same problem. I doubt there are quite as many chip microcode developers on Slashdot.

That said, the description is kind of vague. Does it mean creating a table of opcodes and doing branch prediction based on the table? If so that would probably be patent troll area. My guess is that it's something far more clever though and stands a decent chance of being a good patent.

Re:Could this one be legit? (1)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354920)

Using tables to optimise some aspect of hardware certainly predates 1998 by a long stretch. Applying this to a particular aspect of a CPU and claiming it is novel seems disingenuous to me!

For that matter, several hardware synthesis over the years have allowed for table input. FPGA's all essentially rely on "tables" as the basic combinatorial logic element is a ram array. (IE: A table). In fact, the configuration of all FPGA's, CPLD's, etc are "table" driven.

I would view microcode within a CPU as being table driven as well.

I also wonder about the funding that paid for this "research". I tend to get annoyed when public funding has been used to feather a "private" persons nest. Many thousands of people "own" patents that hinge on publicly funded research. Not just in electronics, but in medicine, etc. Do others think this is fair?

I would suggest that should Intel decide to fight, the eventual outcome will be that the patent will be overturned.

Re:Could this one be legit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354212)

I believe this is the same patent that Sony eventually licensed for the PS2, but I could be mistaken. WARF took Sony to court to enforce it then, too. http://www.news.com/2100-1043_3-5097776.html [news.com]

Message to Winsconsin: do stuff, don't be lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354348)

Could this one be legit?

Only in the good ol' US of A, where people have stopped doing anything useful and instead play stupid legal games.

If you have a good idea, implement it, and if you need a short monopoly to help you get it to market, then patent the idea. That's what patents were designed for.

But if you don't produce anything and just patent ideas so that you can go to court to earn your money then you're as bad as all the other legal parasites. You're just fencing off a piece of the public ideas space and denying it to others even though you don't need it yourself.

Stop being a brake on progress and do something real and useful, outside of the courts.

Re:Could this one be legit? (1)

a_claudiu (814111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354396)

I didn't read the article or the patent either but calculating the average number of letters per word in the summary I believe the opposite (It is definitely odd)

I don't get it (2, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354118)

I read the complaint, and went through the patent. I didn't see any circuit diagrams, just some flowcharts and a lot of descriptions of them. It seems to me there's a vast difference between patenting a flowchart and building a circuit in silicon - but that's just me. I'm gonna chalk this up as a patent troll on an idea - not an invention.

Re:I don't get it (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354214)

I read the complaint, and went through the patent. I didn't see any circuit diagrams, just some flowcharts and a lot of descriptions of them. It seems to me there's a vast difference between patenting a flowchart and building a circuit in silicon - but that's just me.
Well, you see, the lawsuit is against an Intel executive's Powerpoint presentation covering the Core 2 Duo - not the actual chip design.

Re:I don't get it (4, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354220)

An idea can be an invention. An invention is an object, process, or technique which displays an element of novelty. [wikipedia.org] This looks like a technique for building faster processors, and thus is an invention. It also looks like it is far from obvious, and took considerable research to invent. Those researchers made money, so why not let them license their technology to other companies so they can make money to do more research?

Yes... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354634)

By that definition, the 101 sexual positions in the Kama Sutra are inventions, and thereby patentable...

 

Re:Yes... (1)

Killjoy_NL (719667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355266)

Only a 101? Amateurs, I should write a book then with every possible position then ;)

Re:I don't get it (4, Informative)

kent.dickey (685796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355028)

I only briefly read the patent (due to triple damages for knowingly infringing a patent, it's best to not read any patents ever), and although it's not a typical troll, it has the problem of most patents--it's not that special of an idea.

I worked with the HP PA8000 processor since around 1994. It was an out-of-order CPU, meaning it would execute past cache misses or other long delays to find future instructions which it could do now to save time later. The big win for out-of-order is that it can start cache misses for future work early, acting as a prefetch to bring data into the cache.

Unfortunately, sometimes bad speculation can cause a loop of instructions to result in future instructions causing misses that won't be needed, or other bad effects like starting a divide, and blocking the divide unit for a long time for a divide that won't be used. Recovering from this bad speculation takes time and so it's a performance loss. These are second-order effects--the out-of-order is a big enough win that it almost always outweighs any drawbacks.

All current major CPU designs use out-of-order execution, so everyone's aware of these issues now. I remember at the time looking at a bus trace of some code running on the PA8000 and remarking to the CPU designers at HP that they could improve performance by trying to avoid mis-speculating over and over. At that time, it wasn't worth the silicon space to try to fix it. I'm saying this to show it's obvious speculation can cause some performance issues.

And this is the problem with patents--technology changed so that now it's worth it to spend silicon to fix this problem, to eek out another 1-2% performance. And once it's been decided to fix it, there are some obvious ideas. Like modify the branch prediction hardware to add some state to track that a branch is not being predicted well, to tone down execution after that branch. Or doing whatever it is this patent says to do.

But since academic research often doesn't concern itself with practicalities as silicon real estate, it doesn't surprise me that some university has looked into this problem before Intel. And patents are a way to show you're doing research. However, ask 10 CPU designers how to fix bad speculation, and I would be surprised if several of them didn't give an idea that would infringe on this patent. So is the patent really novel or non-obvious? (I'm aware of the legal definition of obvious, which almost always makes any patent legally non-obvious).

However, I don't necessarily have much sympathy for Intel since they use patents to bar competitors from directly interfacing with their chips. If you control a bus specification, you can add an oddball design quirk, patent it, and thereby block competitors from using your bus. I tried to find the patent for "Intel burst order", but couldn't find it in a few minutes of trying.

Intel is probably a good target to sue for patent infringement because they rely on patents and so are less likely to want to set any precedents weakening their own patents. Generally, they go for cross-licensing, which won't make much sense in this case, though.

Re:I don't get it (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354254)

Maybe it's not a patent of a low-level piece of hardware? Hardware development these days happens a lot in high-level languages, just like other programming so a low-level implementation may not be of any real use, depending on how high-level this optimization is. In other words, it's like demanding a binary (or assembly code) for an algorithm, not gonna be pretty.

Re:I don't get it (2, Informative)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354426)

I didn't see any circuit diagrams, just some flowcharts and a lot of descriptions of them. It seems to me there's a vast difference between patenting a flowchart and building a circuit in silicon
The invention is the idea, so a flowchart works. The requirement is that you've "reduced the idea to practice." So in this case a logic circuit simulation (not hardware) or more abstract behavioral simulation would be sufficient.

So basically to patent an idea, you should demonstrate that it will work, not that you can make it yourself. If you thought of it first and wanted to patent a Dyson Sphere, you could, even though no one will be making one any time soon. I'm sure many patents have preceeded prototypes.

Honor huh? (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354148)

'The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is charging Intel Corporation with patent infringement
I KNEW we couldn't trust the Klingon!

Re:Honor huh? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354242)

Sigh. The Klingons run AMD, the Romulins run Intel. That is obvious to anyone who has worked at Intel. So it makes perfect sense for the Klingons to launch an attack on a Romulin convoy in the Legalis Patentus system.

The way I see it (2, Funny)

Butisol (994224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354164)

Intel is like, "No I will not make out with you! Did ya hear that? WARF wants to make out with me in the middle of a die shrink. You got Table Based Data Speculation Circuit for Parallel Processing Computer Man up there talking about God knows what and all WARF can talk about is making out with me. I'm here to make Core 2 Duos, everybody, not to make out with you. Go on with the patent."

Re:The way I see it (0)

corychristison (951993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354832)

I got this one. Dunno if anyone else will.

Good movie. ;-)

The Final Frontier (4, Funny)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354166)

Whoever says that Klingons can't resolve things in a civilized manner are clearly wrong.

Prior smackdown (1)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354172)

WARF contacted Intel in 2001
...and said in a booming resentful voice, "A WARRIOR does NOT dishonorably take ideas from OTHERS!"

Beam me up (1)

OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355298)

I'm really impressed that it took this long into the comments to get a pseudo-Star Trek joke. Give yourselves some Romulan Ale.

My guess it that it's legit (5, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354182)

WARF is old and famous, one of the very first attempts to fund university research by patenting and commercializing research.

It was founded in the 1920s by a professor who invented the process for putting vitamin D in milk.

I believe they also had the patent for homogenizing milk (do you see a pattern here?)

And then, of course, there is WARFarin, the trade name for the anti-coagulation agent dicoumadin, which was discovered when a distressed farmer showed up at the University of Wisconsin's ag school with a bucket of blood from a dead heifer (the pattern continues) and wanted to know what had happened.

Re:My guess it that it's legit (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354338)

...which was discovered when a distressed farmer showed up at the University of Wisconsin's ag school with a bucket of blood from a dead heifer (the pattern continues) and wanted to know what had happened.

Dude, I mean, come on! Yeah, some farmer's wives are pretty big and obese and it's going to be that way for a while, but to call them heifers?

Re:My guess it that it's legit (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354358)

Well, you see sir, cows need blood to transport oxygen and neutrients around their body. If you take the blood and put it in this bucket, the cow doesn't get the oxygen to the brain it needs and it dies.

Re:My guess it that it's legit (2, Funny)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354858)

the cow doesn't get the oxygen to the brain
You've never met a cow, have you?

Re:My guess it that it's legit (3, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354444)

So you're saying that they will only license this technology in Gateway computers?

Is this a publicly funded University? (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354218)

then the design belongs to the taxpayers...

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354354)

Pretty much, and that's why WARF is a non-profit, and any profits they get from patents they license are sent right back to the university for more research.

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354494)

and any profits they get from patents they license are sent right back to the university for more research.
That's pretty funny. I think you haven't seen how universities operate. I'd bet that maybe some of the money eventually filters down into a research fund, but I wouldn't count on much.

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354542)

Pretty much, and that's why WARF is a non-profit, and any profits they get from patents they license are sent right back to the university for more research.

      The FUN thing about non-profits however is that the people who administer the non-profit ARE entitled to draw a salary for running the thing. After all fair is fair, right?

      if(income > cost){
            salary = income - cost;
            profit = income - (cost + salary);
      }

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354720)

The FUN thing about non-profits however is that the people who administer the non-profit ARE entitled to draw a salary for running the thing. After all fair is fair, right?
That's why a board of directors controls salaries for the executive employees of the non-profit organization. In principle, they provide oversight and make sure the executives aren't drawing excessive salaries from the organization's revenues. But in practice there's always the chance for corruption or conflict of interest [bizjournals.com] .

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354386)

Exactly. By reintroducing the money in the UW budget, it alleviates need for tax dollar funding effectively give the funds to the taxpayers.

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354552)

It's good that you've managed to boil down the subtle intricacies of any and all issues generated from created by professors to a black and white soup of "if it's publicly funded, it belongs to the taxpayers". I'm glad that a nearly century old pioneering organization in the university employing some great legal minds can rest safely knowing that their jobs were only made possible due to the sheer oversight of the aforementioned sentence.

Re:Is this a publicly funded University? (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354734)

I believe the purpose of university patents is so that the public doesn't have to pay lots of money for the universities. If they can make some money for themselves, they don't have to have the people pay for them.

Patent troll or not? (1)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354356)

I don't know. The University of Wisconsin doesn't have the resources to manufacture microprocessors, but does Intel not have the capability of solving the associated problems independently? Are the issues at stake in the patent non-obvious to a highly skilled microprocessor designer? The only thing certain at this point is that some lawyers on both sides are going to enjoy a good payday. I suppose Intel could afford to just pay them off.

Re:Patent troll or not? (2, Insightful)

Pojodojo (930080) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354514)

I don't think that just because UW doesn't have a manufacturing plant set up means they are not able to hold a patent for microprocessors. There are numerous people at the University, some who I have been instructed by (being a student) whom have held numerous industry positions including microprocessor architects, most of whom have become bored of the industry and gone into research. Which is where these patents come from...

Re:Patent troll or not? (1)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355296)

Your questions don't t square with the story that's been told so far.

You have a professor who is a well respected in the area of computer architecture disclosing details of this idea to Intel many years before Intel actually started using the technology. You have an institution that attempted to license those rights before Intel started using the technology, but whose attempts were thwarted. That same institution's attempts to negotiate a license were again thwarted less than 5 years after Intel start producing chips with that technology.

And, besides, independent development IS NOT a defense to patent infringement (though it's a defense to copyright infringement). And, even if it were, access to the information would certainly undermine that defense.

It seems the Intel was really just spoiling for a fight.

I happen to work in WARF (5, Informative)

Pojodojo (930080) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354412)

I am a student at the University of Wisconsin, and also happen to work in WARF.(we call the building that the foundation is in WARF as well) The Foundation was set up to protect the discoveries of the university, and has paid for itself many times over, as some of the largest medical patents are held by them. There are also an innumerable amount of Stem Cell patents held by them which in the near future will prove to make a large amount of money. Being a Comp Sci student, I also have heard from some of my professors about issues with companies such as IBM and Intel, whom they have been in contact with, and cannot describe to us lowly students the details of their dealings. However they are definitely not patent trolls. I feel this will make things a little more interesting around the University though, to the point where we can see the true purpose of WARF and how it benefits the University. Bring on a new Comp Sci building!!

hand fucking still legal (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354416)

I fuck my hand

Well... you ARE a Slashdotter. Duh. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354468)

Subject line says it all.

Not first time (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22354512)

Intel did the same thing back when they were developing Pentium. Intel reviewed the architecture and design of DEC's Alpha chip which they decided not to license it eventually. Later on, Intel surprised industry with huge performance gain from 486 to Pentium chip. One of the executives of Intel mentioned that they used features from mainframe to improve the performance of Pentium. The comment sounded fishy to DEC and when they looked at Pentium, and they found out that Intel copied some of the design from Alpha chip. DEC sued Intel and they settled outside of court.

So Intel uses Klingon technology (3, Funny)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354658)

I always suspected modern computers were well beyond the ability of human invention.

The great $$$ redistribution (1)

klaiber (117439) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354766)

So the public at large funds universities so those can do research, which they then patent so that it costs the public more money to use the patents than had they been public domain.

Personally, I believe that there are two reasonable options:
(a) any research funded by public monies ought to be in the public domain, at least in the country of origin; or
(b) any proceeds from patent license fees (or lawsuits) ought to go back to the public purse, not directly into the university's pocket.

Plus, the public or its trusted (hah) representatives ought to have a say, for a given patent, whether to pursue (a) or (b); that way inventions (e.g., in the area of health care) that are really beneficial to the public can follow path (a) and encourage quick and widespread adoption.

Table Based (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22354856)

Table Based Data Speculation Circuit for Parallel Processing Computer.

Damn, they patented relational. I'm fucked. -Tablizer-
   

Happened to Sony and IBM also (1)

dontthink (1106407) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355168)

IBM (http://wistechnology.com/article.php?id=2201 [wistechnology.com] ) and Sony (http://www.news.com/2100-1043_3-5097776.html [news.com] ) have also faced the wrath of WARF. Both were settled out of court for a pretty significant chunk of change. Luckily, most of that money goes back to University research and the inventors...
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