Intel, Nvidia in Settlement Talks: Reports

Intel and Nvidia reportedly are in talks to settle their legal disputes over licensing issues. The vendors requested a postponement of their scheduled Dec. 6 trial.

Intel and Nvidia reportedly are in talks to settle their legal disputes over licensing issues. The vendors requested a postponement of their scheduled Dec. 6 trial.

Intel and Nvidia appear to be negotiating a settlement to their legal disputes, according to reports.

The two companies, which traded legal accusations over licensing issues in 2009, were scheduled to go to trial Dec. 6, but asked a court in Delaware for a postponement while they worked on reaching a settlement. The postponement would push the trial into 2011.

In an interview with IDG, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang confirmed that both his company and Intel had asked for the postponement, but he declined to comment further.

"We're always in talks," Huang said. "Our two companies are always in talks."

A settlement could help both vendors. Intel would get much-needed access to Nvidia's graphics technologies, while Nvidia could continue a partnership with the world's largest chip maker. The dispute between the two started in early 2009, when Intel lawyers asked the Delaware Chancery Court to rule that Nvidia, under a 2004 licensing agreement, did not have the right to develop chip sets for Intel processors based on the company's "Nehalem" architecture or future platforms.

A month later, Nvidia sued Intel, saying the 2004 agreement did allow it to develop products for later generations of Intel processors. The Nvidia suit accused Intel of breaching the contract.

Bloomberg News quoted two unnamed sources as confirming that Intel and Nvidia are in settlement talks, but they declined to offer specifics.

The demand for graphics capabilities in general-purpose computing has ramped up in recent years, particularly in such areas as high-performance computing, as enterprises and institutions are pushing ways to increase compute power while driving down power, space and operational costs. Nvidia has been active in pushing GPUs (graphics processing units) for more mainstream workloads, and both Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices are increasing the graphics capabilities in their CPUs.

AMD is developing a new architecture-in an initiative dubbed Fusion-to put high-performance graphics and CPUs on the same piece of silicon. The first of the vendor's APU (accelerated processing unit) chips are on the verge of being released. AMD is leveraging its acquisition of ATI to build the APUs.

A settlement in the Nvidia lawsuit also would enable Intel to put aside another of the various legal cases it's involved with. Late last year, Intel settled its long-standing legal disputes with AMD in an agreement that included paying AMD $1.25 billion and to promise not to engage in anticompetitive practices that AMD outlined in its lawsuit. Intel officials have contended that, while aggressive, their business practices were not unfair or anticompetitive.

In August, Intel settled a similar lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission, which had accused Intel of unfairly using money and influence to coerce OEMs such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell to limit their use of products from AMD and Nvidia. As in the AMD settlement, Intel officials denied the company had engaged in anticompetitive practices, but agreed not to do so in the future.

The N.Y. State Attorney General's Office has a similar lawsuit ongoing against Intel, and the giant chip maker also has appealed a $1.45 billion fine levied by the European Commission last year.