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Altera Corp. won a major victory Thursday in its long-running patent battle against fellow semiconductor giant Xilinx Inc. San Jose, Calif.-based U.S. District Judge James Ware threw out much of a jury verdict against Altera that said the company had infringed on two valid patents held by Xilinx. Ware ruled that one of the patents was invalid and the other was not infringed by Altera. The ruling “is an absolute win” for Altera, said Morrison & Foerster partner James Brosnahan, who represents Altera. He found there was “no evidence to support Xilinx’s position.” “We were disappointed and surprised by the decision,” said Xilinx attorney John Keker, of Keker & Van Nest. “The immediate effect is to turn us from an appellee into an appellant.” He said Xilinx would appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In November, a jury found that Altera infringed two Xilinx patents for reprogramming computer chips. On Thursday, Ware concluded that Altera did not infringe one of the patents, the so-called “Freeman patent.” He denied Altera’s request for a finding that the other patent — known as the “Carter patent” — is non-infringing. “The court concludes that insufficient evidence exists to support the jury’s finding,” that the Freeman patent was infringed by Altera, Ware said. “Altera’s JMOL [motion for judgment as a matter of law] regarding noninfringement of the Freeman patent is thus granted on this basis.” Altera had asked Ware to rule that both patents were invalid and that the company did not infringe on either of them. Ware made a split decision: the Freeman patent is valid, and the Carter is invalid. Altera did not infringe on the Freeman but did on the Carter. Since a company cannot infringe on an invalid patent, the Carter infringement is essentially moot. There was something of a silver lining for Xilinx: The ruling still allows the company to enforce one of the patents — the Freeman — against other competitors. Xilinx sued for infringement in 1993, and Altera countersued. Altera’s complaint is pending before U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose. The cutting-edge technology in dispute, known as field programmable gate arrays, is used in everything from cell phone towers to medical imagery devices to satellites. The market for programmable logic devices was $2.6 billion in 1999.

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