Intel, Level One Complaint Draws ITC Investigation

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted Wednesday to investigate patent infringement allegations against Altima Communications. The allegations from Intel and its subsidiary Level One Communications center around circuit devices used in telecommunication and networking applications.

The ITC plans to examine whether or not Altima is using intellectual property owned by Intel in certain integrated repeaters, switches, transceivers, and other products containing the same patents. These components help computer systems distribute resources across communication networks.

Altima develops silicon-based semiconductors focused on reducing power for Internet applicationsIn July, Intel and Level One filed the complaint to ITC alleging violations of section 337 of the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930, citing misconduct by Altima in the importation and sale of devices. Both Intel and Level One asked that the ITC issue a permanent exclusion and permanent cease-and-desist order against San Jose, California-based Altima.

Since its August 1999 acquisition by Intel, Level One has looked to the ITC for help on a number of occasions. Headquartered in Sacramento, California, Level One provides silicon connectivity components, LAN (local area network) switching and WAN (wide area network) products for high-speed telecom and networking applications.

Level One brought charges against Altima at the end of last year in a San Jose-based Federal Court. While a decision in that case is still pending, Level One filed an additional complaint with the ITC in March and then amended the complaint to include some Intel patents in July of this year.

The major patented technology in question relates to a Level One product that combines MAC (media access controller) functions, repeater management functions, and bridging capabilities. The product solves previous less-efficient uses of similar technology, Intel claims.

Judge Paul Luckern, an ITC administrative law judge, will make a preliminary inquiry as whether a violation of section 337 of the tariff act occurred. The ITC will review Luckern's decision and has authorized him to consolidate this investigation with the previous investigations if he considers this action appropriate. Once the inquiry begins, the ITC allows 45 days for setting a target date for completion of the investigation.

An Intel spokesman said that the U.S. chip maker spent a total of between US$2 billion and $3 billion on research and development last year and that this action with the ITC is intended to guard that investment. "We have an obligation to our shareholders to protect our intellectual property," Intel's Chuck Mulloy said.

Mulloy also noted that Level One attempted to reach some kind of licensing agreement with Altima in the past. These negotiations however, never panned out.

Level One, based in Sacramento, California, can be reached at +1-916-854-1102 or http://www.level1.com/. Altima, based in San Jose, California, is at +1-408-453-3700 or http://www.altimacom.com/. The ITC, based in Washington D.C., can be reached at http://www.usitc.gov/. Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-987-8080 or via the Internet at http://www.intel.com/.

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