Nvidia is not a company that usually goes around and suing its competitors. Last time this happen the can of whoopass opened after Intel forbade Nvidia from producing chipsets for its CPUs. This lead to a big legal dispute and after two years of litigation Nvidia ended up winning $1.5 billion over two years, access to some microprocessor patents, while Intel got the right to use some of Nvidia patents. This went well for Nvidia one could say.
David M. Shannon serves as executive vice president, chief administrative officer and secretary of Nvidia and in his blog he claims that it is time for the company’s “first” big lawsuit. Nvidia has filed patent infringement complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm with both the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and the US District Court in Delaware.
Nvidia petitioned the ITC to block shipments of Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets containing Qualcomm’s Adreno, ARM’s Mali or Imagination’s PowerVR graphics architectures. This is pretty much any chip on the market, or almost every one that is out there.
Nvidia claims that it spent a whopping $9 billion dollars on graphics research and development since 1993, dating back to NV1 and Riva 128 architectures. The company has managed to accumulate quite a few graphics patents over the past two decades. Intel now has access to some of its patents, AMD and Nvidia probably have some deal to let each other use some of the others patents, but not all.
Nvidia’s licensing team negotiated directly with Samsung about a patent portfolio licence, but Samsung was not interested in paying up. Samsung played the card that this is their suppliers’ problem. Since Samsung and Qualcomm chose not to pay Nvidia for its licences, Nvidia dragged them to court. Nvidia claims seven patents are a matter of dispute.
We combed the court document and found that Nvidia claims Samsung and Qualcomm infringe one or more claims of United States Patent Nos. 6,198,488 (“the ?488 Patent”), 6,992,667 (“the ?667 Patent”), 7,038,685 (“the ?685 Patent”), 7,015,913 (“the ?913 Patent”), 6,697,063 (“the ?063 Patent”), 7,209,140 (“the ?140 Patent”) and 6,690,372 (“the ?372 Patent”).
Those patents involved in the case are mainly about GPU technology described as a device that: "puts onto a single chip all the functions necessary to process graphics and light up screens; our invention of programmable shading, which allows non-experts to program sophisticated graphics; our invention of unified shaders, which allow every processing unit in the GPU to be used for different purposes; and our invention of multithreaded parallel processing in GPUs, which enables processing to occur concurrently on separate threads while accessing the same memory and other resources."
Nvidia believes that devices and chipsets, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, 400, 600 or 800 series of processors, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3 (LTE), Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S III smartphones and the Samsung Note Pro LTE, Galaxy Tab 4, and Galaxy Tab 3 tablet computers are all infringing Nvidia patents.
There is probably a lot that we don’t know about this case yet, but this result in additional revenue for Nvidia, from heavyweights like Samsung and Qualcomm. The absence of Apple in the court docs makes us wonder if there is a licensing deal that might surface at one point.