Intel Corp. is suing Cyrix Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., alleging that the two rival chip makers infringed on its MMX trademark.
The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Delaware, alleges that AMD and Cyrix "have designed and begun implementing strategies to improperly leverage Intel's enormous investment in the MMX trademark, which could result in confusion in the minds of consumers as they make buying decisions."
Intel is seeking preliminary injunctions and unspecified damages.
While Intel has not yet been granted a trademark on the term MMX, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the Santa Clara, Calif., company is still obligated to protect the mark.
"You're required to protect it or else you lose it. That's why we've had to go to court now," Mulloy said. Intel filed for the trademark in January, and both Cyrix and AMD have reportedly contested the application. "We have been in discussions with both [AMD and Cyrix] for several months, going back to last fall. We haven't been able to reach an agreement. They don't believe we can trademark [it] and we [believe we] can."
Cyrix officials could not be reached for comment.
AMD Director of Corporate Communications John Greenagel said the suit was "without merit."
"The issue in this case is whether MMX is a trademark of Intel, as they claim, or whether it's a generic acronym for multimedia extensions. We believe it was widely used [as an acronym] before Intel tried to claim it," Greenagel said.
He said the suit would have no effect on shipments of the company's new processor, called the AMD-K6 MMX, which is scheduled to launch in April.
"Our chip does not say MMX on the package. Even if they were able to get a [temporary restraining order] or injunction, the only thing that would be harmed is advertising," he said.
Mulloy said Intel has spent "tens of millions of dollars" in the past three months to promote the MMX name.
"As a result, consumers have associated and are associating the term MMX with Intel," he said. He said customers could buy a machine with a Cyrix or AMD processor because they see the MMX and assume it is an Intel processor.
Cyrix does not include the term MMX in the name of its new 32-bit processor, code-named M2, but advertises that it is compatible with MMX, although it does not term MMX an Intel trademark or term.
Mulloy said an acceptable use of the phrase would be to say the processor was "compatible with Intel's MMX technology."