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ARM and Imagination take over MIPS for $350m

Want protection from patent lawsuits
Tue Nov 06 2012, 14:40
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A CONSORTIUM that includes ARM and Imagination Technologies has bought MIPS Technologies' patent portfolio for $350m while Imagination will take over the company.

Imagination Technologies, best known for its PowerVR graphics architecture that is used by chip designers such as Intel, Samsung and Apple, has stepped up to add to its general purpose computing design library by buying MIPS. Through an investment company known as Bridge Crossing, the firms will pay $350m for 498 MIPS patents, of which $167.5m will come from ARM.

MIPS has been around for the best part of 30 years and despite being part of the legendary high performance computing outfit SGI in the 1990s, it hasn't been able to compete with rival RISC vendors and in more recent years ARM. The firm has been porting Google's Android operating system to run on its architecture, and while China has been pushing a MIPS-compatible chip for use in its supercomputer clusters, the firm is unlikely to see much in the way of royalty payments.

MIPS CEO Sandeep Vij said, "After a thorough review of a wide range of alternatives to enhance shareholder value, our Board of Directors concluded that the best alternative for the Company would be the sale of patent properties to a consortium formed by AST, and a sale of the Company to Imagination. Importantly, as part of Imagination, the MIPS architecture will continue to be supported, and protected by MIPS patents. This highly successful outcome builds upon the rich heritage of the MIPS processor architecture, while effectively monetizing the Company's valuable patent portfolio."

Hossein Yassaie, the CEO of Imagination Technologies said that his firm will continue to support MIPS. "Post deal closure, Imagination will continue to support and expand the MIPS architecture and ecosystem, with the combined effort aiming to create a new industry-leading force in CPU development and licensing," said Yassaie.

While Imagination was talking about continuing the MIPS legacy, ARM CEO Warren East talked about protecting ARM from patent litigation. East said, "ARM is a leading participant in this consortium which presents an opportunity for companies to neutralize any potential infringement risk from these patents in the further development of advanced embedded technology. Litigation is expensive and time-consuming and, in this case, a collective approach with other major industry players was the best way to remove that risk."

Both ARM and MIPS said that they expect the deal to close in the first quarter of 2013. µ


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