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Former SGI Entity Sues Apple, Sony, Samsung Over Graphics

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 20 comments

Graphics Properties Holdings (GPH) has made a name for itself to monetize about 300 former SGI patents. LG, RIM and HTC hunted as well.

Following the sale of SGI's assets in 2009, GPH is the legal successor of SGI, at least as far as its IP is concerned. In the latest wave of patent suits, GPH is suing Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC, RIM an Apple over an alleged violation of U.S. patent 8,144,158 entitled “Display System Having Floating Point Rasterization and Floating Point Framebuffering.”

The patent covers a geometry processor, a rasterizer compatible with floating point data, as well as a frame buffer connected to the rasterizer that is able to store color values in floating point format. GPH claims that consumer electronics devices offered by the lawsuit targets are violating the patent and are subject to licensing fees. In Apple's case, GPH says that the company's "handheld computers, tablets, cellular telephones, and other consumer electronics and display devices and products containing the same, including Defendant’s iPhone device and other substantially similar devices" are infringing the patent.

This particular patent cannot be traced back to SGI origins as it was filed only on January 11, 2011. There is not history of this patent available in the USPTO database yet. However, GPH did not waste any time launching the lawsuit; the USPTO granted the rights to it on March 27, 2012.

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  • 1 Hide
    Cazalan , March 28, 2012 7:31 PM
    More ridiculous patents! They NEVER search properly for prior art.

    Considering how many years the iPhone has already been shipping, Jan 2011 is super late for a filing date.

    Thus the MAJOR problem with the "first to file" rather than "first to invent" change of the patent system.
  • 1 Hide
    MKBL , March 28, 2012 7:37 PM
    Filing-to-issue time is 14 months. I want to send all our patent cases to the examiner. Way more productive.
  • 0 Hide
    yumri , March 28, 2012 7:40 PM
    i agree with the Cazalan that 2011 is a very late filing date as the devices in question came out before that year started so wouldn't it have been denied for the same reason why i cant file a patent for the wooden barrel? As everyone has one it seems anyways so there is no uniqueness to it thus not patentable. Thus why our US patent office should be reformed to stop useless patents from coming to be and patenting something which someone else is already doing just to profit off of their R&D.
  • Display all 20 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    rosen380 , March 28, 2012 7:54 PM
    I think that tech was in SGI's Indigo2 'Impact' Graphics line which came out around 1993. Hell-- if they had patented it when they were actually developing those graphics cards, the patents would probably be expired by now...
  • 5 Hide
    MKBL , March 28, 2012 8:23 PM
    Just checked the published patent, and found that there are priority patents and pending applications, way back to 1998. This particular patent is a continuation of the long-running patent family. It's not just INVENTED in 2011, so I retract my previous sarcastic comment.

    Still I am disgusted by patent trolls' wanton lawsuits. As in the trademark practice, those patents that the owner haven't tried to commercialize should be either forced to be licensed, or nullified. It is disgusting that trolls wait until others have spent their resources developing certain technology, hiding under the radar, and come after them once they smell hints of money, like hyenas.
  • 1 Hide
    rosen380 , March 28, 2012 8:30 PM
    the current company has been in control of SGI for just under three years-- how long is reasonable to give them to go through Silicon Graphics' couple decades worth of IP to identify any infringing tech?
  • 1 Hide
    rosen380 , March 28, 2012 8:57 PM
    My mistake-- GPH is the portion of SGI that wasn't sold off to Rackable, so I'd imagine that they had a pretty good feel for what tech they had [since they presumably had a hand in deciding what not to sell to Rackable].

  • 1 Hide
    shardey , March 28, 2012 8:57 PM
    I wish the patent system wasn't as trollful as it is now. I wonder how far along we would be if innovation was first, rather than greed.
  • 2 Hide
    badaxe2 , March 28, 2012 10:19 PM
    There should be a time limit on how long after the supposed breach of a patent that supposed owner can pursue litigation for. It's almost like some idiots stumble upon something and think, "Hey! Maybe if we word this cleverly enough we can extort money from people for *cough* our *cough* idea!"
  • 1 Hide
    robochump , March 29, 2012 12:31 AM
    Patent Trolls! Low life lawyers always looking for an easy buck.
  • 3 Hide
    gto127 , March 29, 2012 12:49 AM
    I was a stockholder in the former SGI & have a bitter taste of being left of in the cold. They should have went after patent infringement before they went bankrupt but knew they could start over fresh & leave us stockholders with nothing.
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , March 29, 2012 1:59 AM
    i should patent this article and sue Douglas Perry so he has something to actually claim troll over with out sounding like a communist every time he breaks out a patent article.
  • 1 Hide
    buddhabelly34 , March 29, 2012 2:52 AM
    The reason the patent office is not doing its job properly is because you have a bunch of really smart people making these patents and submitting them (whether novel ideas or not) and a bunch of not-so-smart people in control of patent approval. I doubt the patent office is keeping highly educated PhDs in their office to mull over every patent that comes through. That would be fiscally inefficient.
  • 2 Hide
    TeraMedia , March 29, 2012 1:51 PM
    @buddhabelly34: It's worse than that. Their budgeting and compensation are structured in such a way that they are motivated to approve as many patents as possible. They expect the courts to sort out the mess... and the taxpayers and victims foot the bill.

    I still stand by the "you patent it; you market it" concept. If you don't ship something incorporating your patent, and don't work with a manuf. to ship something incorporating your patent within 2 years, then the patent and its legal effects are null and void until such time as you do so.
  • 1 Hide
    chomlee , March 29, 2012 2:25 PM
    What should be put into law is that if a patent holder decides not to sue for violation of patent and then someone buys that IP, the purchaser cannot sue someone who was using the process/ip when the previous owner was in possesion of the patent and decided not to sue.

    Too many of these greedy lawfirms are searching for patents that others own that have a slight infringment. They then go and purchase the patent soley with the idea of sueing apple/samsung/microsoft to get a payday. This type of practice should be outlawed.
  • 0 Hide
    buddhabelly34 , March 29, 2012 2:41 PM
    @TeraMedia: Good point. This is more of an issue with the way all business are conducted. They operate in such a way that they are able to receive subsidies.

    I personally don't think any patents should be valid until the system is fixed.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , March 29, 2012 3:58 PM
    rosen380I think that tech was in SGI's Indigo2 'Impact' Graphics line which came out around 1993. Hell-- if they had patented it when they were actually developing those graphics cards, the patents would probably be expired by now...

    I think patents last 20 years, so they wouldn't have expired yet unless I'm wrong about that or your date is wrong.

    What if patents could not be used to sue someone else if you wait more than 18 or 24 months after the other party infringed on the patent. That way, any troll "companies" would be left unable to troll anyone without at least semi-legitimate reasons.

    Oh, and doesn't the patents in this article basically apply to every modern graphics system with a display because GPUs and such pretty much all have ROPs of some sort and a GPU is based off of floating point processing too? Each core in a GPU does 32 bit floating point math to display a picture. Going further back, we have other bit widths, but it's been mostly floating point instead of integer math for a fairly long time. Basically, these patents apply to the entire graphics and display industries.

    So, what's to keep AMD, Nvidia, and everyone else safe from this? AMD's doing bad enough right now, they really don't need this stupidity. This is just another case of someone waiting until entire industries are built off of their patents before suing everyone in sight for it instead of suing them when it comes out. It's practically theft.
  • 0 Hide
    rosen380 , March 29, 2012 4:05 PM
    "I think patents last 20 years, so they wouldn't have expired yet unless I'm wrong about that or your date is wrong."

    Well, I was figuring that if they released the product around 1993, it was probably in development for a couple years; if they patented it when they started working on the idea, rather than waiting until the product was already headed out of the door, they'd be right around 20-21 years now...
  • 1 Hide
    buddhabelly34 , March 29, 2012 4:32 PM
    Patents last *up to* 20 years, fwiw
  • 1 Hide
    hetneo , March 30, 2012 1:09 PM
    violation of U.S. patent 8,144,158 entitled “Display System Having Floating Point Rasterization and Floating Point Framebuffering.” ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    Can a person younger than 30 name at least one display system without floating point rasterization or framebuffering? How patent law suit fly around I'm just waiting for day to hear someone has patent for "telecommunication device powered by power source independent from communication lines".