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Nvidia sues Qualcomm and Samsung over graphics patents

by Mark Tyson on 5 September 2014, 12:15

Tags: Samsung (005935.KS), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qacisn

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Nvidia has initiated a lawsuit against both Qualcomm and Samsung for allegedly infringing several patents related to GPU technologies in their SoC's. Both the accused companies have previously refused to enter into licensing agreements with Nvidia.

The patent infringement complaints are the first patent lawsuits Nvidia has initiated in its 21-year history, and were filed with both the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. District Court in Delaware.

The complaint filed with the ITC seeks an injunction against Samsung with a goal of blocking at least 12 of Samsung's devices including the latest Galaxy S5, Note 4 and Note Edge, until the South Korean giant agrees on paying licensing fees. The devices which it has asked the ITC to block are those which contain Qualcomm's Adreno, ARM's Mali or Imagination's PowerVR graphic chips.

"Instead of developing its own graphics processing technology, Samsung purchases and uses Qualcomm’s infringing processors and GPUs, as well as other processors and GPUs that infringe the claims of the asserted patents," Nvidia said in its Delaware filing.

In Nvidia's blog post, the company highlights that it has already tried to negotiate with Samsung directly. However it never came to a deal as the Korean tech giant "repeatedly said that this was mostly their suppliers’ problem," says David Shannon, NVIDIA's Chief Administrative Officer.

Nvidia claims that at least seven of its patents have been infringed, including the following:

  • Nvidia's foundational invention, the GPU, which puts onto a single chip all the functions necessary to process graphics and light up screens
  • It's invention of programmable shading, which allows non-experts to program sophisticated graphics
  • The invention of unified shaders, which allow every processing unit in the GPU to be used for different purposes
  • The invention of multithreaded parallel processing in GPUs, which enables processing to occur concurrently on separate threads while accessing the same memory and other resources.

The green team's failing attempts in reaching a licensing agreement with Samsung and Qualcomm in the past two years precipitated this lawsuit. The central argument of the case against both companies is ultimately about who's responsible for the infringements. Some suspect that Qualcomm might be in for a long battle, as its chips are found in a large number of devices beyond Samsung branded mobiles and tablets.

However, as with many previous examples, often these technology patent lawsuits are settled out of court before the trial reaches its conclusion. Nvidia has asked for a full jury trial rather than a trial by judge.



HEXUS Forums :: 28 Comments

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If you can't beat'em, sue'em…

I'd almost say nVidia has taken a page out of Apple's playbook, but that would be unkind …to nVidia.
Unlike a lot of recent lawsuits, fair play to Nvidia IMO. Assuming the patents are valid etc., they are pretty fundamental and deserve recognition. As I see it (and the article reads), someone should be paying a license fee, yet neither the chipmaker nor device maker think it should be them. If Samsung has refused a license offer themselves and knowingly used chips that weren't licensed ~(this having gone on for a while now), arguably it is still their responsibility, even if it is the chipmaker who should have licensed the tech in the beginning.
I'm less inclined to get angry at Nvidia for precipitating a lawsuit like this if it's really it's first, especially if it's been in discussions with qualcomm and samsung for a couple of years already as well to try to resolve the matter.

However, I can't quite see the logic in going after samsung if the problem lies in qualcomm's house, as it would appear to at first glance here…
Roobubba
I'm less inclined to get angry at Nvidia for precipitating a lawsuit like this if it's really it's first, especially if it's been in discussions with qualcomm and samsung for a couple of years already as well to try to resolve the matter.

However, I can't quite see the logic in going after samsung if the problem lies in qualcomm's house, as it would appear to at first glance here…

Qualcomm made the chips, so they are the patent infringers. Samsung probably bought all those chips and reached agreements on them in good faith (ie “Qualcomm are huge and make these chips for everyone, so they're legit”). It's not up to the purchasers to control the patents of their suppliers.

What really troubles me is nVidia's desire to block ALL recent Samsung devices - even ones using ARM's own Mali design. That's infeasible at best, and downright shady.

They'd stand a much better chance, and spend far less money on legal fees, just pursuing Qualcomm.