SAN JOSE, Calif. – Nvidia filed its first two patent infringement suits, going after Samsung tablets and smartphones and the Qualcomm and Samsung chips inside them. With the suits against its largest potential customer and its biggest competitor in mobile, Nvidia is turning up the heat on its emerging licensing strategy launched about two years ago.
Nvidia filed complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm at the International Trade Commission and in the US District Court in Delaware, alleging that the companies are infringing seven graphics patents on programmable and unified shading and multithreaded parallel processing.
Patents in the case include:
- No. 6,198,488 Transform, Lighting and Rasterization System Embodied on a Single Semiconductor Platform
- No. 6,992,667 Single Semiconductor Graphics Platform System and Method with Skinning, Swizzling and Masking Capabilities
- No. 7,209,140 System, Method and Article of Manufacture for a Programmable Vertex Processing Model with Instruction Set
- No. 6,690,372 System, Method and Article of Manufacturer for Shadow Mapping
- No. 7,038,685 Programmable Graphics Processor for Multithreaded Execution of Programs
- No. 7,015,913 Method and Apparatus for Multithreaded Processing of Data in a Programmable Graphics Processor
- No. 6,697,063 Rendering Pipeline
Nvidia claims it has 7,000 granted or pending patents. The seven chosen represent "patents we have high confidence read on their products," said Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia's chief executive in a call with financial analysts.
Samsung products included in the suits are the Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4 mobile phones, Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Note Pro, and Galaxy Tab 2 tablets. Most of the devices use Qualcomm mobile processors, including the Snapdragon S4, 400, 600, 800, 801, and 805. Others are powered by Samsung Exynos mobile chips, which use ARM's Mali and Imagination Technologies' PowerVR GPU cores. ARM and Imagination were not named in the suits.
Nvidia did not specify in the suits the amount of damages it is seeking. In the conference call, Huang did not reveal the amount Nvidia sought from Samsung in licensing fees, but he did describe the talks in broad terms:
We've been in discussions with [Samsung] a couple years because given [their systems] include all three GPU architectures available outside ourselves.
We made no progress, and they put no real offer on the table. We spent a lot of time with them and made every effort to have a negotiated outcome. When you have been using technology for free for a while its hard to sign a large, significant licensing agreement.
After working on it a couple years we decided we were not making more progress.
Samsung and Qualcomm declined to comment on the suits.
"The suits come at a time when Nvidia is making small strides to revive a mobile business that has been under pressure. Nvidia's Tegra line has rebounded from the bottom and is growing, but this suit seems to have little to due with Tegra, other than Samsung is not using Tegra processors in any product," said Kevin Krewell, principal with market watcher Tirias Research.
An Nvidia representative said it expects the ITC to determine within 30 days whether to open an investigation. If it does a trial could come in mid-2015 with a decision following within a few months. The Delware court will set a date within 90 days for a trial that may not begin for two or three years, she said.
Patent infringement trials are uncertain affairs as mobile leaders Samsung and Apple have already learned.
Apple filed two patent infringement cases against Samsung that led to high-profile jury trials in Silicon Valley. In initial judgments in 2012, it won about a third of the $2.71 billion it sought in the first case, but it won little more than 5% of the $2.191 it sought in a 2014 case.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times