Intel Sues Fortress Investment Over Patent Lawsuits

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Lawsuit from chip giant Intel, alleges that investment company is a semiconductor patent troll

Intel has filed a lawsuit against Fortress Investment Group, alleging that it has stockpiled patents in order to hit tech firms with numerous lawsuits.

Fortress is an investment company that has been owned by SoftBank Group Corp (also the owner of ARM) since 2017.

Intel alleges in its filing that “one way in which Fortress has tried to turn around its performance and justify SoftBank’s investment in it is through increased speculation on patent assertions.”

Troll © Clara, Shutterstock 2012

Patent troll?

Intel’s allegation therefore is that Fortress is what is called a “patent troll”.

These firms are often non-practicing entities, also known as patent monetisation firms, and have been plaguing the IT industry for years.

Founded in 1998, Fortress describes itself as “leading, highly diversified global investment manager with approximately $40.9 billion of assets under management,” as of June this year.

But according to the Intel lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, Fortress violates antitrust law by funding patent assertion entities that assert “weak patents” against tech companies including Apple and Google.

“Intel brings this complaint to end a campaign of anticompetitive patent aggregation by Fortress and a web of (patent assertion entities) that Fortress owns or controls,” Intel reportedly said.

Intel sued

According to Reuters, Fortress has acquired control of more than 1,000 US technology patents, and that it, and other companies it owns or controls, filed lawsuits against Intel claiming that nearly every Intel processor made since 2011 infringed patents the companies had obtained control of, from NXP Semiconductors.

NXP Semiconductors is a Dutch firm that employs roughly 45,000 people in more than 35 countries around the world. It makes a range of chips including those used in contactless payment systems, and is considered to be a leading chip supplier to the automotive industry.

Gordon Runté, a managing director at Fortress, was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement that the company is “confident in our business practices and our legal position and view this lawsuit as meritless, but we don’t comment on the specifics of litigation matters.”

SoftBank reportedly declined to comment, and Intel declined to comment beyond its filings.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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