TAIPEI, Taiwan ( ChipWire) -- Taiwan's stock market reacted badly to news of the U.S. International Trade Commission's unfair trade practices investigation of Via Technologies Inc., and Via executives and securities analysts tried to play down the investigation.
The ITC voted on Tuesday to launch an investigation in response to a January complaint filed by Intel Corp. Intel also has several patent-infringement cases against Via pending in federal court involving its P6 bus technology (see Feb. 9 story).
"Via can probably get around the P6 bus patent issues since they still have cross-licensing agreements with National Semiconductor and S3 Corp.," said a securities analyst. "I don't understand why Intel is doing this. Via saved Intel in the fourth quarter by providing almost 3 million core logic chip sets. Basically, Intel just dropped the ball by discontinuing their BX chip set too soon."
Via did have impressive sales in late 1999 as Taiwan's mainboard makers and large U.S. OEMs looked for a suitable replacement for Intel's lack of marketable core logic. "We sold about 8.5 million core logic parts in Q4 of 1999," said a Via spokesman. "The five largest PC makers in the United States have designed mainboards based around our product. They've spent months doing that. They are angry about Intel's move to take us out of the market."
Named along with Via and its U.S. subsidiary in Intel's complaint before the ITC is First International Computer of America Inc. and Everex Systems Inc., both based in Fremont, Calif., and First International Computer Inc., based here.
Intel's complaints against First International Computer Inc. (FIC) and Everex Corp. are both understandable and perplexing, observers here said. Via, FIC and Everex are all owned by the Wong family, reportedly the richest in Taiwan. "We don't really have that large a part of the U.S. market," said an official at FIC. "How come Intel didn't go after Compaq or Hewlett-Packard or some of Via's other U.S. OEMs?"
Most of Via's core logic business is not in the P6 CPU market anyway. "Thirty percent of our market is still for Socket 7 boards," the Via spokesman said. "We also are looking for a very strong market for our AMD-based products this year. Intel's core logic unit couldn't compete with us, so their legal department asked the U.S. government to help them out."
An Intel spokesman said the company filed the complaint with the ITC to block products that infringe its patents. The spokesman said Intel remains open to a settlement.
The ITC's vote means the U.S. investigation will be referred to an administrative law judge, who will hold an evidentiary hearing on Intel's complaint. The judge must then determine whether there is a violation of U.S. trade laws. The judge's ruling is subject to review by the Commission.
The ITC said it would set a date within 45 days for completing the investigation.
Via's stock was down about 4% at Thursday's close on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.