NVIDIA Brand Shot 2014-9

In a bit of a surprise move, NVIDIA has filed patent infringement complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm through both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court in Delaware. Although NVIDIA is no stranger to the courtroom, they call this an “important day,” marking the first time they have initiated a patent lawsuit.

As a part of the filing, NVIDIA is seeking a block on shipments of infringing devices into the U.S. market. Several prominent devices are on that list, including the Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and the only just announced Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge.

NVIDIA claims that seven GPU related patents have been infringed upon by Samsung and Qualcomm. The patents relate to processes such as programmable shading, unified shaders which allow processing units in a GPU to be used for different purposes, multithreaded parallel processing in GPUs and for the GPU itself, putting all functions necessary to process graphics and light up screens onto a single chip.

Tegra K1 Graphics Core anandtech

As you might imagine, the GPU and related processes can be found on most computing systems on the market today. Licensing agreements for their graphics cores and related patents are NVIDIA’s approach to making returns on their claimed $9 billion of R&D into GPU technology. This is where today’s lawsuit comes into play, as NVIDIA has been to the negotiation table with Samsung several times over the last couple years without coming to an agreement.

This lawsuit will be important for most players in the mobile industry to keep an eye on. Each player is pointing the finger here. Samsung poses that Qualcomm, as manufacturer and supplier of some of their SoC components, is responsible for licensing the tech from NVIDIA. Through the lawsuit, NVIDIA poses that Samsung, as the final producer of the completed SoC and devices, is primarily on the hook for licensing the majority of the referenced patents.

For all the gory details, check out NVIDIA’s press release. Also, check out the ITC complaint here and the District Court complaint here. From there, stay tuned, we’ll have more info as this as it progresses. Expect initial hearings in the next short while, then the full lawsuit to drag out for the next few months, or years. I should point out that it will likely take at least a few months before any decisions are made that could block the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – if you were planning on picking one up right away, you should be fine.

What do you think, who is on the hook for licensing GPU patents, the manufacturer of the individual parts or the manufacturer that puts the parts together into a deliverable device?

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