WALTHAM, Mass. Lexra Inc. will vigorously defend itself against patent infringement charges made last week by MIPS Technologies Inc., and is considering a countersuit against MIPS, according to Charlie Cheng, president and chief executive officer of Lexra.
The MIPS suit, filed Oct. 28, is not the first legal wrangle between the two companies. MIPS' onetime parent company, Silicon Graphics Inc., sued Lexra in April 1998 and charged it with false advertising and trademark infringement.
The two companies ended that dispute in October 1998 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
Cheng said he was very surprised by MIPS' recent patent infringement suit, especially because Lexra had entered negotiations with MIPS at MIPS' request. The companies had gone as far as discussing a cross-license agreement of Lexra's RADIAX instructions and MIPS' MIPS32 instructions, Cheng said.
"The lawsuit came as a surprise and in our negotiations with MIPS, we never talked about the patents, which we are confident we do not infringe," said Cheng. "This suit is another step MTI [MIPS Technologies Inc.] is taking to confuse our customers and we are not going to take it."
According to Lexra, the MIPS suit claims that a software emulation option in Lexra's LX4080, LX4080P, LX4180, LX4280 and LX5280 32-bit microprocessors infringes U.S. patent 4,814,976, which pertains to unaligned reference handling. The suit also claims that the LX4280 and LX5280 infringe U.S. patent 5,864,703, which pertains to extended precision arithmetic. The complaint mentions nine other patents, but MIPS does not charge Lexra with infringement of those patents.
Prior to developing its products, Cheng said that Lexra thoroughly investigated the MIPS patent portfolio and embarked on a path to ensure its products would not infringe any MIPS patents.
Cheng said Lexra also reviews MIPS patents with its customers to reassure them that Lexra cores do not infringe on MIPS patents. "We also indemnify our customers," he said.
Lexra currently has 17 licensees and will add six more this year, Cheng said. The 30-person company has recently hired a chief financial officer and has picked a banker, Cheng said, indicating that a Lexra public offering is eminent.
"I want to clear up this FUD once and for all before we take the company public," he said. "We are confident we will prevail."