COVID-19 cases derail billion-dollar Intel patent trial for now

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U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp's logo is seen on their "smart building" in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, Israel December 15, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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  • Third trial in Intel dispute with VLSI Technology over chip tech kicked off Monday
  • VLSI won over $2 bln in first case, Intel fended off VLSI in second

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday postponed the latest Texas trial in a multi-billion dollar patent fight between Intel Corp and VLSI Technology LLC after multiple participants tested positive for COVID-19.

An attorney for Intel said U.S. District Judge Alan Albright in Austin informed the courtroom about the cases and stopped the trial over microchip technology Tuesday morning. No make-up date has yet been set, according to court staff.

An attorney for VLSI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Coronavirus case numbers have risen in many parts of the country since last month, though they are generally far below past peaks and the Austin area is not currently experiencing a major surge in cases.

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A jury in Waco, Texas last March awarded VLSI nearly $2.2 billion after finding Intel infringed related patents, and Intel defeated VLSI's bid for over $3 billion more in a second trial that April.

In the third trial, which started Monday in Austin, VLSI argued that the technology used in Intel chips violates a patent related to improved data processing.

VLSI is a patent-holding company affiliated with the SoftBank-owned private equity firm Fortress Investment Group. It bought the patent at issue from Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors.

Intel attorney William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr told jurors Monday that thousands of the company's engineers developed its technology independently, and that VLSI's older technology would not work with Intel's modern microprocessors.

Two other patent cases brought by VLSI against Intel are still pending in Northern California and Delaware. A trial in the California case is set to begin in 2024, while a trial has not been scheduled yet in the Delaware case.

The case is VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corp, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, No. 1:19-cv-00977.

For VLSI: Morgan Chu of Irell & Manella

For Intel: William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr

Read more:

Intel loses U.S. patent trial, ordered to pay $2.18 billion to VLSI Tech

Intel defeats VLSI Technology in $3.1 bln patent trial

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com