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Intel, VLSI Set for Texas Courtroom Showdown in Patent Jury Trial

Feb. 12, 2021, 10:00 AM

Intel Corp. and VLSI Technology LLC are back in Waco, Texas, and set to square off in front of a federal jury in a high-stakes patent fight.

Trial is set to begin Feb. 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, where Intel will defend itself against patent infringement allegations. The trial, overseen by Judge Alan Albright, is among the few in-person patent trials in recent months, with many courts pressing pause amid the coronavirus pandemic.

VLSI, an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group, and Intel have been duking it out in courts around the country, including California, Delaware, and Texas. In an antitrust lawsuit Intel and Apple Inc. filed against Fortress, Intel said VLSI is seeking billions of dollars in damages across its various lawsuits.

Intel has mounted a number of challenges to VLSI patents at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The company also recently filed a complaint in Delaware Chancery Court arguing that Fortress breached a patent license agreement.

The Texas trial involves VLSI’s patented data processing system technology. VLSI has alleged that certain Intel computer processors infringe.

Both sides have some star power. Leading Intel’s team is WilmerHale attorney William Lee. For VLSI, it’s Morgan Chu of Irell & Manella LLP.

Moving From Austin

VLSI originally sued Intel in Waco. Albright agreed to move the case to Austin, where Intel has offices, for convenience reasons. But with the federal courthouse in Austin closed because of the pandemic, Albright decided late last year to move the trial back to Waco.

The move came over the objections of Intel, which asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to step in. The court in December said Albright couldn’t move the trial, but suggested the judge may be able to transfer the entire case back to Waco.

Albright ended up doing just that, in an order later that month.

Intel filed a second petition with the Federal Circuit, which the appeals court denied. The court said while it “may have evaluated these factors and the parties’ arguments differently,” the district court’s conclusion didn’t amount to an abuse of discretion.

Albright also denied Intel’s requests to push the trial back a couple months because of the pandemic. The judge, who mentioned during a December hearing that his wife is an emergency room nurse in Waco, has said he believes trials can be conducted safely with the proper precautions.

Virus Precautions

Albright sketched out exactly what those precautions will look like in this case with a Feb. 10 order.

There will be daily Covid-19 tests for trial participants, as well as temperature checks at the door. Jurors will sit in the jury box, keeping six feet of distance between one another, and have the option of wearing face shields or N-95 face masks.

The courtroom doors will be open, in an effort to maximize ventilation, and there will be air filtration and air purifier systems. Witnesses will testify from behind a plexiglass barrier, and the witness box will be disinfected at the end of each witness’s testimony.

The court will also arrange to make audio available in an overflow room and provide remote access to members of the public who want to listen to the trial.

Second Trial

This will be the second patent suit to go to trial in front of Albright, who fields more patent cases than any judge in the U.S. His first was in October and ended with Roku Inc. being cleared of infringing a MV3 Partners LLC patent on mobile streaming technology. Virus precautions were also in effect at that jury trial.

Albright has a number of patent trials on his calendar for this year.

Among the cases scheduled for trial are Ancora Technologies Inc.’s suit against Samsung Electronics Co. over an anti-piracy technology, Netlist Inc.’s case against SK hynik Inc. over memory module patents, and a fight between Intellectual Tech LLC and Zebra Technologies Corp. over technology for radio frequency identification readers.

VLSI and Intel are also set to return to his courtroom for additional trials.

The case is: VLSI Technology v. Intel Corp., W.D. Tex., No. 21-CV-00057.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bultman in New York at mbultman@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergindustry.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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