COPYRIGHTS: Whose Chip Is It, Anyway?

Whose Chip Is It, Anyway?

Like the genes in a living cell, the microcodes on a computer chip carry the instructions that control the chip's functions. Manufacturers safeguard the valuable microcodes with copyrights, but their legality has been a vexing question. No longer. In a landmark ruling last week in San Jose, Federal Judge William Gray upheld a microcode copyright used by Intel Corp., the world's largest producer of microprocessors. The decision came in a dispute that began in 1984 when Japan's NEC challenged the copyright. Intel responded that NEC had illegally used the code in its own products. But while Gray upheld the copyright, he...

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