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Chinese Processor Raises IP Concerns
By David James

One of China’s top semiconductor manufacturers has produced a 64-bit microprocessor known as Godson-2, which reportedly matches the performance of the Pentium III at 500Mhz. The chip may breach intellectual property laws if ever released outside China, however, as it is an unauthorised variation of the US-developed MIPS architecture, according to market-research company In-Stat.

According to In-Stat, the Godson-2 architecture, produced by China’s BLX IC Design Corp (BLX), is about 95 per cent compatible with the MIPS R10000 architecture developed by MIPS Technologies Inc.

In-Stat stated that there is no business relationship between MIPS Technologies and BLX and that no intellectual property was licensed to BLX or to Beijing University’s Institute of Computing Technology (ICT), the group that designed the chip.

Although In-Stat’s report does not claim that the Godson-2 infringed on MIPS Technologies’ intellectual property, In-Stat says that there could be intellectual property contentions between the US and Chinese firms if the Godson processors were embedded in consumer electronics devices for international export.

According to BLX’s former chief executive David Shen, BLX tried unsuccessfully to initiate licensing talks with MIPS technologies.

In-Stat senior analyst Tom Halfhill said China is “catching up fast” in the production of high quality microprocessors. He said the Chinese chip manufacturing industry currently restricts Chinese microprocessor designers as it uses manufacturing processes that lag two generations behind the rest of the world.

In-Stat’s findings are based on independent research and an interview with Beijing University Professor Weiwu Hu, Godson’s chief architect.

BLX’s first mass-produced processor, the 32bit, 266MHz Godson-1 was launched in China in 2002 and is currently being produced for the Chinese domestic market.

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