ARM CEO Defends Its GPU Technology In Nvidia's Legal Battle With Samsung

A few weeks ago, Nvidia sued Samsung and Qualcomm over allegedly infringing its graphics IP, and the company also filed a complaint with the ITC to block Samsung's devices that contain GPU technology from Qualcomm, Imagination and even ARM.

ARM's CEO, Simon Segars, released a statement defending its own IP and its ecosystem partners:

"We stand behind our IP. To the extent that we need to, we absolutely work with our partners when something like this happens," Segars told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Nvidia isn't suing ARM itself, despite accusing Samsung that ARM's Mali GPU infringes on its patents, mainly because the company is also a partner and customer of ARM. Nvidia licenses CPU and architecture IP from ARM, so it probably wouldn't be in its best interest to sue ARM for infringing its GPU patents. ARM's CEO doesn't seem to think this lawsuit will ruin ARM's relationship with Nvidia:

"It does create a bit of a curious situation. But we do a lot of business with a lot of people," Segars said about ARM's relationship with Nvidia.

A year ago, Nvidia started licensing its Kepler GPU technology (opens in new tab), which at the time many thought was a new business model for the company since it kept struggling to gain significant market share in the mobile market. Having more Kepler GPUs in more SoCs could have brought an increased revenue for the company, and it would have also given Nvidia the opportunity to make its GPU technology much more popular in mobile than it could achieve on its own.

It would have been similar to an ARM vs Intel strategy; ARM licenses its IP to an ecosystem of chip makers, while Intel is a single company, so it's inevitable that ARM's technology would be used more by OEMs.

Having its GPU technology in most mobile devices would have made it much easier for Nvidia to get game developer support for its proprietary GPU technologies and for its Tegra Zone store, which the company has been developing for years.

Either this was the original strategy that didn't work out as planned for Nvidia, or giving others its Kepler GPU IP was never really the plan. Nvidia could have launched the "licensing" program as a way to get other GPU makers to pay royalties for its patents, if Nvidia thought they were infringing on it. Nvidia seems to have contacted Samsung in the past about it, but Samsung refused to pay a royalty, and now Nvidia is suing the company.

Samsung will first need to deal with Nvidia's request to the ITC to block its more recent smartphones such as Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3, as well as tablets like the Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Note Pro and Galaxy Tab. Otherwise, it will have to stop shipping those devices to the U.S.

Samsung will also need to deal with the Delaware lawsuit Nvidia started against it. Nvidia hasn't asked for a specific amount in damages yet, but it could be anywhere from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, if not higher.

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • InvalidError
    At least half the patents in Nvidia's ITC complaint reek of prior-art and obviousness - at least one of them is basically patenting integration, something all chip manufacturers across all fields of application have been doing for 30+ years as technological progress enables cramming more circuitry per die or consolidating formerly incompatible device types.

    The technology enabling through-silicon vias is definitely patent-worthy but the simple application of TSV to enable tighter integration of existing technology should fall in the obvious and non-patentable category since this is what TSV was created for. However, I bet the PTOs will grant some of those obvious patents anyway and we are going to see patent disputes about it later.

    The patent system is one very sick puppy.
  • tobalaz
    Are ARM and Qualcom infringing patents?
    Should those patents exist in the first place?
    The system exists to put smaller companies out of business through endless legal battles with bigger companies until the smaller companies go under and can be snapped up cheaply by the larger thereby extending their patent portfolios and stifling any new technology or innovation that could have competed with their own technology.
    The system is broken, favors the rich, and is in desperate need of change.
  • damric
    if you can't innovate, litigate
  • jasonelmore
    One thing this article fails to mention is, Nvidia is right about the patents. They own them. They are so right, that Samsung and Qualcom, have been paying licesnsing fee's for these patents for the past 8 years. yep that's right, these patents right here.

    Samsung and Qualcom here recently just stopped paying for them. Nvidia called and said "yo, pay your licensing fee's" and Samsung.... said, "nah we dont feel like paying these anymore because we believe they are standard use now."

    hence the lawsuit.
  • somebodyspecial

    I don't think you've read the patents. They were created on DESKTOPS for desktop gpus and graphics DONE on PC's etc. Now that phones/tablets are trying to run the same types of graphics and having the same types of technology to do it, you OWE MONEY. PERIOD. Either you owe it to NV or AMD, depending on who owns what pretty much across the board. Why do you think Intel is paying NV? They didn't own the patents either.

    These patents were filed between 1997 and 2003 (most 2000 or before and granted years later). The only things using this tech were PC's or consoles for years now. You seem to be confused. Intel is paying for a reason, and the only question here is who is going to pay and how much in this case. I'm pretty sure both qcom and samsung will owe as both are infringing and even worse at least samsung has known they were doing it for 2yrs (huge damages will come from WILLFUL INFRINGEMENT). If qcom is in the same boat (which hasn't been said yet) they will also pay huge. It will be a multiple of Intel's number as Intel just stopped chipsets which left them owing for NV's gpu patents since doing that made their deal with NV void but not quite the same as willful infringing as is the case here (at least for samsung so far). Intel only ended up infringing because of screwing NV on the chipsets thus ending their deal and leading to the suit. Here they were stealing tech, and then told about it 2yrs ago and continued to do so. That's going to hurt a lot in the end. It's almost comic you actually think the patents are BS when even Intel has had to pay and they've been doing desktop graphics for years, unlike all these mobile guys who never had to put anything difficult on the screen until ~2-3yrs ago. People pay qcom for modem patents for the same reasons as you see happening here with gpus. By your standards it seems, Intel shouldn't have any cpu patents because huge vacuum tubes basically did similar crap in computers that took up full HUGE rooms ages before x86 etc...ROFL. No transistor patents because a tube did it previously? LOL. Whatever. This whole semiconductor race crap is stupid, vacuum tubes are prior art...ROFLMAO. Whatever. My Abacus did math, so why should anyone have any patents related to a calculator...ROFL. Your logic is truly baffling even for an NV hater. Will you be saying the same thing if AMD sues for some gpu patents eventually?

    These are not "rounded corner" patents. They are HIGHLY detailed and lengthy, and nobody else has been making desktop tech for years (other than AMD/NV/Intel and Intel had to pay already and have never lead the charge). After NV wins, I wouldn't be surprised if you see an AMD suit shortly afterwards using NV's case as leverage. The only reason I think you don't see it yet, is they can't afford to make one, where NV has billions and can easily fight this for years. This fight would probably bankrupt AMD before they won anything. Then again maybe they don't have the patents to fight with at all.

    There is a reason professional gpus (and even regular desktop gpus) exist and do jobs cpus just can't (and when they try they are orders of magnitude slower because that is NOT what they are made to do). There is no PRIOR ART here. The prior art is all NV or AMD or companies swallowed by them over the years. Explain to me what the prior art is that kills something like shadow mapping in a graphics pipeline on a gpu (one of the patents)? Who did that before desktop gpus? I could go on but you should get the point. There is a reason why crisis 3 doesn't look like DOOM 1. It took a heck of a lot of R&D and patents to get to crisis 3 like graphics...Jeez.

    If you actually read the patents you wouldn't make such ridiculous comments repeatedly about this suit. You read the paragraph description of the 7 patents in the first toms post and that was it. These things are pretty much 20+ pages long for EACH one, pasted into word with tons of block diagrams etc (12000+ words etc). These are not apple style rounded corner patents...LOL.

    I also expect apple to be sued once this case is won (fight the small guys then use the evidence and rulings to get the big guy), or the verdict used on apple to get them to make some kind of deal rather than sue once apple sees how their verdict will end up too. Apple will be left either paying a large sum or making some kind of deal to use a crapload of NV stuff for years to pay off some sort of agreed amount. Either way all of these will be huge additions to NV's bottom line in some way shape or form. IE samsung could allow NV to produce REALLY cheap gpus/socs for year and make some deal to use NV socs etc too (then again they have enough cash to pay whatever the verdict is anyway, apple too). Worst case scenario is lic fees for NV for years like Intel has been paying (and will probably have to re-up in 2016/2017) and I really can't see how there won't be some verdict with a monetary award here no matter how you slice it.

    Unfortunately for all soc/phone/tablet etc makers they are all now doing what desktop gpus have been patenting for over a decade. They won't be getting out of this and the rest will pay up or make deals as soon as they see the verdict of these two (and maybe even before, the patent infringement wild west in mobile is over now).