OPTi Inc. was a fabless semiconductor company based in Milpitas, California, that primarily manufactured chipsets for personal computers. The company dissolved in 2001 and transferred its assets to the unaffiliated non-practicing entity OPTi Technologies (itself later renamed OPTi Inc.)

OPTi Inc.
Company typePublic
IndustryFabless semiconductor
Founded1989; 35 years ago (1989) in Milpitas, California, United States
DefunctSeptember 2001; 22 years ago (2001-09)
SuccessorOPTi Technologies (2002–2020)
Key people
  • Kenny Liu, CEO (1989–1994)
  • Jerry Chang, CEO (1994-1998), Bernie Marren, CEO (1998–2001)
Number of employees
235 (early 1990s, peak)



OPTi Inc. was formed in 1989 in Milpitas, California,[1] by former employees of Chips and Technologies. Cash-strapped on a "shoe-string [budget]" on its foundation,[2] among the company's first products was a trio of VLSI chipsets for i386SX- and i486-equipped AT motherboards. The first was a direct-mapped CPU cache for 386SX motherboards; the second was a burst-mode CPU cache for 486 motherboards;[3] and the third was a interleaved memory module for 486 motherboards. OPTi measured the latter two chipsets to reduce the component count on 486 motherboards clocked at 40 MHz (or 11 MIPS) to as few as 20.[4] In 1991, Chips and Technologies filed a patent infringement suit against OPTi, alleging unauthorized use of two of C&T's patents regarding semiconductor memory designs and particularly interleaved memory schemes, but a federal judge later ruled in OPTi's favor.[5][6]

In early 1992,[7] the company developed one of the first local bus designs for IBM PC compatibles. It soon found itself competing with VESA's implementation and the nascent PCI bus standard by Intel.[8] It survived into the Pentium era before OPTi submitted to Intel and began manufacturing PCI chipsets.[9][10] Later in 1992, they introduced a programmable writethroughwriteback cache chipset for the contemporary wave of upgradable motherboards, supporting up to 64 MB of RAM and processors by Intel, Cyrix, and AMD.[11]

OPTi had a peak workforce of 235 employees and US$164 million in annual sales in the early 1990s;[12] only three years after its inception, OPTi's revenue for fiscal year 1991 reached $100 million, under CEO Kenny Liu (b. 1954).[2][13] Although considered a small company,[14] OPTi's initial public offering in 1993 proved successful in the short term.[12] However, the ramping-up of Intel's chipset manufacturing in 1994 challenged OPTi's presence in their market. While Intel saw OPTi as its nearest competitor then, Intel accounted for 66 percent of all sales of Pentium-class chipsets, with OPTi at 10 percent and Taiwan-based SIS at 7 percent.[15] Liu stepped down from his role as CEO in 1994, remaining chairman of the board.[13]

OPTi Viper-M chipset soldered to a motherboard (part number 82C558M)
Close-up of die shot showing copyright notice for OPTi Viper chipset (part number 82C558E)

OPTi was reasonably more successful in the mobile chipset arena,[16][17] starting with i486-based chipsets for notebooks and other portable computers in 1994,[18] earning design wins from Toshiba, NEC, and Hewlett-Packard with their PCI-based Viper-N chipset from December 1994 to mid-1995.[19][20] OPTi's Viper-M chipset, their challenger to Intel's Triton chipset on the desktop, was notable for supporting Cyrix's then-unreleased 6x86 processor, as well as AMD's K5—both competitors to Intel's Pentium, which Viper-M also supported.[21] Contemporary chipsets from Intel only had support for the Pentium.[22] In September 1995, OPTi joined an alliance with semiconductor fabricator United Microelectronics Corporation and several other fabless companies including SIS to raise a 350250 nm semiconductor plant within Hsinchu, Taiwan, in late 1995 or early 1996.[23]

OPTi dabbled with 2D graphics processing unit design with the TrueColor GUI Accelerator in August 1995.[24] Two years prior, the company had acquired MediaChips Inc., a designer of low-cost digital sound chips,[25] whose patents for a single-chip sound controller they used to design the OPTi 929 in 1994.[26][27] In 1997,[28] OPTi and Singapore-based TriTech Microelectronics were sued by Crystal Semiconductor, a subsidiary of Cirrus Logic, for alleged patent infringement of Crystal's mixed-signal technology used in the audio component of the Viper-M chipset,[29] which OPTi designed around being compatible with Intel's Native Signal Processing technology.[30] The courts ruled in favor of Crystal in late 1999 or early 2000, ordering TriTech and OPTi to pay their portion of a combined $20 million.[28]

Dissolution, sale, and litigation streak


OPTi found itself unable to compete against Intel's newfound dominance in the chipset market, with sales all but disappearing by late 1998. The company, which had moved to Palo Alto, California, appointed Bernie Marren as CEO that year.[12] Marren, who had been a board director since 1996,[2] steered the company away from the chipset business in 1999, in favor of developing microcontrollers for notebooks,[31] chiefly LCDs and USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) serial buses.[1] These products however barely broke even,[12] and in September 2001, OPTi's board of directors voted unanimously to dissolve the company, subject to approval in November 2001.[1] After a year of dormancy, the company sold its semiconductor business and assets to the unaffiliated company OPTi Technologies.[32] Marren soon took the reins of OPTi Technologies, and the company shortly after renamed themselves OPTi Inc.[12]

This incarnation of OPTi Inc. became known as a non-practicing entity—acting only as licensor for their patents and litigating against other semiconductor businesses for alleged infringement of their patents—under Marren's management.[31] Their litigation began shortly before the establishment of OPTi Technologies, with Intel in 2001. Intel settled out of court with OPTi that year for $13.5 million in exchange for the purchase of patents OPTi alleged that Intel had infringed. OPTi then launched a string of successful suits against Amtel, Broadcom, Renesas, Silicon Storage Technology, STMicroelectronics, Standard Microsystems Corporation, and VIA Technologies.[12] CNET characterized this as a "patent infringement litigation rampage".[2]

In early 2006,[33] OPTi filed the first of numerous patent infringement suits against Nvidia; by 2009 the company had won a total of $14.75 million in judgments and settlements against Nvidia, with further litigation by that point still in limbo.[12] Also in 2006, OPTi launched an infringement suit against AMD,[33] though this case stalled until February 2010.[12] The courts ruled in favor of OPTi in May 2010, and AMD agreed to pay $32 or $35 million to OPTi.[34]

In January 2007, OPTi launched a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Apple Inc. for the unauthorized use of OPTi's "predictive snooping of cache memory for master-initiated accesses" patent in Apple's Macintosh computers.[35] The courts in Texas ruled in favor of OPTi and ordered Apple to pay $21.7 million—$19 million in instances of patent misuse and $2.7 million in prejudgement interest (potential lost profits for OPTi due to their focus on the lawsuit).[36] Apple announced their intention to appeal in December 2009 but dropped this appeal a year later—on the day before a court was to hear it.[37]

OPTi (Technologies) Inc. in 2010 only staffed three people, including Marren.[34] The company again sued VIA Technologies in 2013 and won on judgement $2.1 million plus $1 million as prejudgement interest, but lost this on VIA's appeal. For the fiscal years ending in 2014 and 2015, the company reported no revenue from licensing and claimed operating losses. In 2018, the company was down to its last employee.[31] OPTi finally shuttered in September 2020.[38]


  1. ^ a b c Graham, Jeanne (September 17, 2001). "Opti Opts to Close Its Doors". EBN (1280). CMP Media: 8 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ a b c d Tobak, Steve (August 23, 2008). "Look out Silicon Valley, OPTi's back with a vengeance". CNET. Red Ventures. Archived from the original on September 13, 2022.
  3. ^ Wirbel, Loring (December 25, 1989). "Cache catches on big". Electronic Engineering Times (570). UBM LLC: 20 – via Gale.
  4. ^ Copeland, Ron (November 13, 1989). "Opti 486 Chip Set Runs at 40 MHz". InfoWorld. 11 (46). IDG Publications: 3 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Staff writer (June 18, 1991). "Chips & Technologies Files Suit". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company: A5 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Staff writer (May 18, 1992). "Firm's Use of Memory Chip Upheld in Infringement Case". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company: A22 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ Brownstein, Mark (February 10, 1992). "Intel hopes to create bus standard". InfoWorld. 14 (6). IDG Publications: 1, 8 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Glass, Brett (December 14, 1992). "PC users have choice of Opti, VL-Bus, and PCI local buses". InfoWorld. 14 (50). IDG Publications: 75 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Crothers, Brooke (March 14, 1994). "Opti, VLSI to support 3.3-volt Pentium chips". InfoWorld. 16 (11). IDG Publications: 33 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Crothers, Brooke (October 31, 1994). "Opti offering multivendor chip set". InfoWorld. 16 (44). IDG Publications: 56 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Quinlan, Tom (May 25, 1992). "Opti offers chip set for upgradable systems". InfoWorld. 14 (21). IDG Publications: 28 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Hoge, Patrick (December 13, 2009). "OPTi Inc. CEO beat Intel and Apple. Who's next?". San Francisco Business Times. American City Business Journals. Archived from the original on December 24, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Staff writer (March 1, 1994). "Opti Inc". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company: 1 – via ProQuest.
  14. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael (July 27, 1992). "Fast graphics bus sparks excitement, risk of confusion". Computerworld. XXVI (30). IDG Publications: 46 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ LaPedus, Mark (September 18, 1995). "Will OEMs See a Windfall from Chip-set Supply Storm?". Electronic Buyers' News. CMP Publications: T8 – via ProQuest.
  16. ^ Crothers, Brooke (January 9, 1995). "Opti moves to Pentium chip set for portables". InfoWorld. 17 (2). IDG Publications: 42 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael (May 29, 1995). "Notebooks plug into Pentium". Computerworld. 29 (22). IDG Publications: 12 – via ProQuest.
  18. ^ Crothers, Brooke (September 26, 1994). "Opti chip set targeted at 486 portables". InfoWorld. 16 (39). IDG Publications: 44 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Crothers, Brooke (October 24, 1994). "New products to support PCI on notebooks". InfoWorld. 16 (43). IDG Publications: 6 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Crothers, Brooke (January 9, 1995). "Opti moves to Pentium chip set for portables". InfoWorld. 17 (2). IDG Publications: 42 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Crothers, Brooke (February 6, 1995). "Opti chip set to support Pentium, K5, and M1". InfoWorld. 17 (6). IDG Publications: 40 – via Google Books.
  22. ^ Staff writer (February 27, 1995). "Cyrix readies alpha of its M1 processor". InfoWorld. 17 (9). IDG Publications: 3 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ LaPedus, Mark (September 18, 1995). "UMC Forms New Foundry: Joint Venture With U.S. Fabless Cos". Electronic Buyers' News. CMP Publications: 3 – via ProQuest.
  24. ^ Staff writer (August 21, 1995). "Pipeline: Shipping". InfoWorld. 17 (30). IDG Publications: 25 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ Moore, Mark (October 4, 1993). "Short takes". PC Week. 10 (39). Ziff-Davis: 147 – via Gale.
  26. ^ Staff writer (May 16, 1996). "New OPTi Chipset with AT&T DSP Bids Multimedia System Markets". Electronic News. 40 (2014). International Publishing Corporation: 42, 44 – via the Internet Archive.
  27. ^ Staff writer (October 17, 1994). "Opti Pushes Audio Migration". Electronic News. 40 (2014). International Publishing Corporation: 24 – via the Internet Archive.
  28. ^ a b Flood, Mary (January 19, 2000). "As Austin High-Tech Firms Mature, Patent Suits Boom". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company: T1 – via ProQuest.
  29. ^ Collett, Stacy (May 24, 1999). "Chip Maker Wins Big in Patent Infringement Suit". Computerworld. 33 (21). IDG Publications: 29 – via Google Books.
  30. ^ Crothers, Brooke (March 27, 1995). "AMD, Opti show integrated media chips". InfoWorld. 17 (13). IDG Publications: 8 – via Google Books.
  31. ^ a b c Parr, Russell L. (2018). Intellectual Property: Valuation, Exploitation, and Infringement Damages. Wiley. p. 349. ISBN 9781119356233 – via Google Books.
  32. ^ "OPTi Reports Sale of Semiconductor Business". Business Wire. September 30, 2002. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  33. ^ a b Staff writer (November 20, 2006). "Opti Charges AMD Infringed on Patents". Computerworld. 40 (47). IDG Publications: 12 – via Google Books.
  34. ^ a b Hoge, Patrick (May 5, 2010). "OPTi gets $32M AMD settlement". San Francisco Business Times. American City Business Journals. Archived from the original on August 10, 2010.
  35. ^ Mullins, Robert (January 18, 2007). "Opti sues Apple". Network World. IDG Communications. Archived from the original on September 14, 2022.
  36. ^ Melanson, Don (December 8, 2009). "Apple ordered to pay damages in Opti patent case, Apple appeals". Engadget. Yahoo!. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021.
  37. ^ Decker, Susan (December 7, 2010). "Apple Drops Appeal of $19 Million OPTi Patent Victory". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on April 10, 2015.
  38. ^ "OPTi Technologies Inc". OpenCorporates. Archived from the original on September 14, 2022.