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Intel owes billions to a company that’s come back from the dead

| Mar 4, 2021 | Patent Law

An essential part of applying for a patent is finding if the process is already on the books. You may think you’ve got your own unique idea until a patent owner comes out of the blue.

A Texas jury decided that Intel Corporation owes VLSI Technology, Inc. a little over $2 billion for patent infringement. While IBM argued that the company only blinked back into existence for the lawsuit, that didn’t change the fact that the little-known entity may still hold a valid claim over the patent.

Zombie corporations

VLSI was last an independent company in 1999 before it was purchased by Philips Electronics, who spun it into a subsidiary. The patents in question were issued to different companies between 2009 and 2012, then through a string of purchases and transfers, the patents found their way to VLSI the year of the suit.

VLSI has no products, and the decision for a tenth of Intel’s annual income would be their only notable revenue. Regardless, they currently have the patents under their umbrella, and they meet the requirements for ongoing patent protection. This furthers the notion that tracking down patents and owners can be a daunting task, but the number of obstacles isn’t likely to change the outcome in court.

Searching for precedent

Infringement doesn’t depend on knowing that a precedent exists, which is why it’s so important to understand what protections may stand in your way. Applying for a patent can be a complicated process, but undergoing a petition without thoroughly checking for predecessors could make it unnecessarily costly.