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AMD Wins Court Fight to Use of '386' on Intel Chip Clone

March 02, 1991|JONATHAN WEBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Advanced Micro Devices on Friday won an important legal victory when a federal judge gave it clearance to use the numbers "386" on its clone version of Intel's hot-selling 386 computer microprocessor.

The federal judge's ruling, which rejected Intel's claim of trademark protection on the number 386, is expected to be a significant boost to AMD and other chip makers seeking to capitalize on the popularity of the Intel microprocessor.

AMD and Intel have for years been locked in a bitter battle over rights to the 386, a computer-on-a-chip that forms the brain inside many International Business Machines-compatible personal computers and is believed to account for as much as $1 billion in annual revenue for Intel.

Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge William A. Ingram, which followed a monthlong trial in federal court in San Jose, was important for AMD because if Intel had won, personal computer vendors would not have been able to use the numbers 386 to market machines that used the AMD chip.

The numbers are often used in the names of IBM-compatible machines because the type of processor is the key factor in determining power and performance. AMD has been shipping samples of its 386 clone to customers for testing and expects to begin commercial shipments this quarter.

AMD, which had been a "second-source" supplier for earlier generations of Intel microprocessors, claimed the right to manufacture the 386 under a technology-sharing agreement with Intel. An arbitrator last year agreed that Intel had violated the agreement, but did not order Intel to give the design of the 386 to AMD. Damages will be determined later this year.

Intel has also sued AMD for copyright violations on microcode, the instructions written into a microprocessor. A trial on that claim is scheduled to begin in April.

The trademark lawsuit was filed in October after an Intel official named Mike Webb received a package of documents about the then-somewhat secret 386 that had actually been intended for an AMD employee named Mike Webb.

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