The patent wars are far from over, but this time a patent lawsuit isn’t coming from the usual suspects in the mobile market, but from Nvidia, which is suing both Qualcomm and Samsung (opens in new tab) over alleged infringement on seven of its graphics patents.
A year ago, Nvidia announced its Kepler licensing program, which many thought was the company’s plan to put its GPU technology in other chips in order to make Nvidia even more ubiquitous in the market. However, it now appears that it may have been Nvidia’s plan to get other GPU IP designers like Qualcomm, ARM and Imagination to pay royalties for its Kepler patents.
Nvidia asserts that Qualcomm is infringing on its GPU IP, and therefore both Qualcomm and Samsung, (which uses Qualcomm’s chips) must pay it a royalty. Nvidia even went to Samsung to cut a deal, but apparently Samsung didn’t want to hear anything about it, so it rejected any agreement between the two, saying this is mostly the suppliers’ problem.
“Without licensing Nvidia’s patented GPU technology, Samsung and Qualcomm have chosen to deploy our IP without proper compensation to us. This is inconsistent with our strategy to earn an appropriate return on our investment. We are now seeking the courts’ judgment to confirm the validity, infringement and value of our patents so that we can reach agreement with Samsung and its graphics suppliers,” reads the Nvidia post.
Nvidia has already asked the ITC to block some of Samsung’s shipments to the U.S., that include devices such as the recently-announced Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge, as well as the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4 and tablets such as the Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Tab 2 and Galaxy Note Pro. Nvidia has also asked the Delaware Court to award it damages.
Nvidia claims these are the kind of patented technologies Samsung and Qualcomm infringed on:
"Those patents include our foundational invention, the GPU, which 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."
Whether those claims are true or not, it is important to remember that a few years ago Nvidia also scored a big $1.5 billion win against Intel in another major licensing agreement, after years of Intel disputing the patent claims.
This time, Nvidia has also carefully chosen only seven patents out of over 7,000 that it has either issued or has pending, so the company must believe it has a strong case against Qualcomm and Samsung. Ultimately, it’s up to the Courts to decide the validity of those patents and if Nvidia is in the right or not.