Nvidia filed the countersuit in Delaware state court, challenging Intel's contention in filings last month in the same court that the 2004 agreement doesn't cover a new microarchitecture that incorporates graphics technology and a memory controller on the same piece of silicon as the main processor.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said all Intel has done in its filing is ask the court to take a look at the licensing agreement and make a decision whether Nehalem and other future products are covered. The company is not seeking any damages.
Intel went to court once it became clear that the two sides couldn't reach an agreement, Mulloy said. "You can only go so long saying, 'we're licensed; no, you're not.'"
Nvidia's filing, which accuses Intel of breach of contract, also seeks termination of Intel's license to Nvidia's patent portfolio, including its 3-D and GPU technologies. For Nvidia, the Intel license makes it possible for the company to ship graphics technology in Intel-powered PCs from major computer makers, such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Toshiba.
"Nvidia did not initiate this legal dispute," Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive of Nvidia, said in a statement. "But we must defend ourselves and the rights we negotiated for when we provided Intel access to our valuable patents. Intel's actions are intended to block us from making use of the very license rights that they agreed to provide."
The companies have been trying to settle the disagreement for more than a year. Intel has been in volume production of products using the Nehalem microarchitecture since late last year. The next-generation technology is available in chips for high-end desktops and workstations and will be available starting next week in new servers used to run business applications in corporate data centers.
Intel has been boosting the graphics capabilities in its chipsets for a while, encroaching on Nvidia's market in PCs, which have become increasingly focused on video, music, and other forms of entertainment. Nvidia, on the other hand, is trying to replace Intel chipsets.