A federal jury in Waco, Texas, ruled today that Intel must pay $2.18 billion in damages to VLSI, a semiconductor design firm, for violating two of its patents. Damages for one patent violation weigh in at $1.5 billion, while the other totals $675 million. The broader case is still ongoing, though, as VLSI has sued Intel in several states, spanning California, Delaware, and Texas, for damages associated with six other alleged patent violations.
Intel's most recent 10K filing lists the VLSI lawsuits as ongoing litigation, noting that VLSI seeks a total of $7.1 billion in damages from all eight alleged violations, along with future royalties, attorney's fees, costs, and interest. Intel predicts that totals up to $11 billion, collectively.
Intel commented on today's ruling, saying to Tom's Hardware, "Intel strongly disagrees with today’s jury verdict. We intend to appeal and are confident that we will prevail."
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, one patent pertains to saving computer power, while another pertains to increasing the speed of the processor. We tracked down the patents, with the '759 patent' relating to clock speed management, while the '373 patent' describes a method to reduce the memory's minimum operating voltage.
VLSI originally purchased the patents in question from NXP Semiconductors, which will also get an unspecified portion of the awards. However, the patents originated with Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and SigmaTel Inc., both of which were purchased by NXP Semiconductors.
Intel has denied that it violated the patents, and along with Apple, has previously filed an antitrust lawsuit against VLSI's parent company, Fortress, claiming the company had unlawfully aggregated patents.
Intel's lawyers said in the closing arguments that VLSI has no products and that its only source of revenue is from the lawsuits, obviously implying the company is merely a patent troll.
To keep things in perspective, while the $2.2 billion in damages is obviously high, Intel raked in $77.9 billion in revenue during 2020, so it's a manageable sum. However, it is significantly higher than the $1.2 billion fine Intel was slapped with for antitrust behavior against AMD a decade ago, and the company still disputes that fine in court today.
As noted above, Intel plans to appeal the recent ruling, so we can expect this to be an ongoing fight for years to come.