Law Street Media (opens in new tab) reported that Japanese professor Masahiro Iida had sued (opens in new tab) Intel for infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,812,737. The complaint accuses Intel of manufacturing, using, and selling Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and System-on-Chip (SoC) chips that employ Adaptive Logic Modules (ALM), a patent that Iida has held from 2004 to 2014.
When Iida was a doctoral student back in 2001, he had discovered a method to configure large look up tables (LUTs) so that a single M-input N-output LUT can operate as a single “whole” LUT or as a group of “fractured” LUTs. His discovery reportedly helped substantially reduce the implementation area and power consumption for chips that leveraged the innovation.
Iida filed for a patent application on June 29, 2001, and consequently did so in the United States on June 28, 2002. As a result, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued the ‘737 patent (opens in new tab) entitled “programmable logic circuit device having to look up table enabling to reduce implementation area” to Iida on November 2, 2004, which he has been the sole owner since then until October 1, 2014.
Altera and Xilinx are two the big players in the FPGA market. Intel bought Altera for $16.7 billion in 2015, and AMD consequently acquired Xilinx for $54 billion this year. Iida’s complaint pertains to Altera’s Stratix II line of FPGA chips launched in 2004 using ALMs. The company continued to utilize ALMs in its subsequent Stratix chips, including the Stratix III, Stratix IV, Stratix V, and Stratix 10, and in some of its other Arria and Cyclone product lines. After the Altera acquisition, Intel continued to manufacture and commercialize the Stratix, Arria, and Cyclone lineups. In addition, the chipmaker’s Agilex chips also utilize ALMs.
According to the filing, Intel may have benefited significantly from the products, with up to 80% of its annual revenues coming from selling FPGA and SoC that used ALMs. The filing estimated at least $11.5 billion from sales of the accused products over six years (Q3 2016 to 2022).
Professor Iida’s counsel sent a certified letter to Intel’s General Counsel concerning the ’737 patent infringement. Intel has infringed at least claim 1 of the ’737 patent. Despite the plaintiff’s notice, Intel continued to make, offer to sell and sell the accused FPGA chips without a license from Iida.
Iida is looking for monetary compensation equal to or greater than a reasonable royalty that he should have received if Intel had licensed his patent. He also requested that the Court grant him up to three times that amount found by the jury for Intel’s infringement pursuant and his attorney’s fees.