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, 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.