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The Importance of Intel’s x86 Intellectual Property

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steven-rodgers_1.jpgBy Steven Rodgers, Executive Vice President and General Counsel

Intel co-founder Robert Noyce famously said “innovation is everything.”  Every day, tens of thousands of Intel scientists, engineers and others work to keep Noyce’s vision true.  Beginning with Intel’s release of the 8086 processor in 1978—which has been called a “watershed moment” for the world—Intel has been committed to advancing Moore’s law and improving our groundbreaking microprocessors and other products and technologies.  From the Intel 486™, through the Pentium® era, to today’s Core™, Xeon® and other processors, Intel has relentlessly advanced microprocessor and computer technology.  At the heart of these products is the Intel x86 architecture; invented by Intel, refined by Intel, and owned by Intel.

At Intel, we also understand the importance of protecting innovation.  Strong and enforced intellectual property laws make it possible for companies like Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources necessary to advance the frontiers of technology.  While those laws certainly can and should be improved, strong patent, trade secret, trademark and other intellectual property laws encourage companies to take risks.  That was certainly true when Intel, then a memory maker, bet the entire company on a new invention called the microprocessor.

For these reasons, I was surprised and disappointed recently to see reports in the press speculating that there are no limitations that would prevent others from emulating Intel’s proprietary x86 technology.  Such assertions ignore both the purpose of the world’s intellectual property laws and the billions of dollars Intel has invested in developing and protecting that technology.  As one example, of the more than 90,000 patents and applications in Intel’s current worldwide patent portfolio, thousands relate to inventions that implement or support Intel’s x86 technology.  Those patents are high-quality, well-prosecuted assets, and no one (other than Intel) has the right to allow others to copy Intel’s technology or to practice all of those patents.