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IBM Wins Patent Suit Over Supercomputer

(CN) - IBM did not infringe on an independent software company's technology in developing the "Blue Gene" supercomputer, a Manhattan federal judge ruled.

Fifth Generation Computer Corp. claimed that it had provided IBM with confidential technology, and then watched as Big Blue used its patented information to develop "massively parallel supercomputers," which are said to be capable of performing one quadrillion calculations per second.

Fifth Generation originally filed a federal lawsuit in Texas for patent infringement, claiming it had created the architecture for IBM's Blue Gene.

In September, President Obama awarded the project the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor for technological achievement in the United States.

The disputed patents involve technology used to increase the speed of computers. The Blue Gene supercomputer is 100,000 times more powerful than a home PC, and is touted as the "world's fastest computer," according to IBM's Web site.

The increased speed is possible through "parallel processing," which divides tasks into smaller tasks that are performed simultaneously, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote.

"The parallel processing is achieved through the use of one type of parallel computer: the 'binary tree' computer," Rakoff explained. "In a binary tree computer, each processor (or node) is connected to one or more 'child' or 'leaf' processors (or nodes) to form communication 'trees.'"

This technology allows supercomputers to perform a wide range of functions, such as mapping human genes, predicting climate trends and protecting nuclear weapons, at an alarmingly fast rate.

"Drug researchers could run simulated clinical trials on 27 million patients in one afternoon using just a sliver of the machine's full power," according to an IBM press release.

Judge Rakoff's 39-page opinion dealt mostly with the construction of patent terms, such as the "binary tree" technology Fifth Generation claims it created in the late 1980s. After examining both systems, he determined that tasks being performed with Fifth Generation's technology "would not be completed simultaneously," and noted that "IBM's construction does not suffer from these difficulties."

The parties had agreed to dismiss their claims and counterclaims once Rakoff clarified the patent terms. Accordingly, Rakoff dismissed the complaint with prejudice, and dismissed IBM's counterclaims without prejudice.

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