Internet Machines Uses Patent to Go After PCI-Express Tech and Anyone Using Itby Jarred Walton on September 21, 2011 5:52 PM EST
One of our contacts recently made us aware of a new round of lawsuits, which could apparently apply to every major company in the world of personal computers. The list of defendants at includes the following:
- Alienware Corporation
- Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
- Club 3D B.V.
- Cyclone Microsystems Inc.
- Dell Computer Corp.
- Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc.
- Freedom USA, including AVADirect.com/AVADirect Custom Computers
- GDA Technologies, Inc.
- General Electric Enterprise Solutions, a division of General Electric Company
- Integrated Device Technology, Inc.
- Inventure, Inc.
- NVIDIA Corporation
- National Instruments Corp.
- PLX Technology Inc.
- Tigerdirect, Inc.
- Vadatech, Inc.
- Vrose Microsystems, Inc.
I’m not familiar with all of those names, but I do recognize many of them. How some other big names apparenlty slipped through the cracks isn't clear (Acer/Gateway, Intel, VIA, HP anyone?), but maybe the above list isn't complete. Regardless, let’s look at the patents for a minute to see what they cover.
The first patent (7454552) covers a “switch with transparent and non-transparent ports” while the second (7421532) refers to “switching with transparent and non-transparent ports”. Neither description really says much, but the text below suggests what they’re covering: communication via a switch between PCI Express devices. What’s really crazy is that this sounds like Internet Machines literally managed to patent a portion of PCI Express spec.
Reading through the actual descriptions and language of the patents is like reading a document full of nonsensical jargon. Specific terms are used, but at the same time the descriptions are very nebulous. Take the final claim: “A method for switching data units, the method comprising providing a PCI Express switch having transparent and non-transparent ports associating the transparent ports with a shared address domain associating the non-transparent ports with non-shared address domains routing data units between the transparent ports, between the transparent and non-transparent ports, and between the non-transparent ports in accordance with a PCI Express interconnect standard.” It’s an example of exactly the sort of thing that shouldn’t be patentable, and yet these two patents were granted—along with thousands of others likely sitting dormant waiting for some company to see if they can get a settlement out of them.
Actually, what’s really crazy is that they’re going after system integrators, along with graphics card companies AMD and NVIDIA, and pretty much anyone else they can think of. Why Intel isn’t on the list is a mystery, or maybe Internet Machines knows it’s a bad idea to poke Intel’s legal team in the eye. Hopefully reason and common sense can win out in the legal system, because this appears to be rampant abuse of the patent system and the penchant for patents to be granted for anything and everything. Several of the companies listed should have the expertise required to kick the case to the curb, but one system integrator states that they already settled with Internet Machines a year ago, and now they’re being taken to court for a similar patent, as though their willingness to settle is an admission of guilt.