Roughly a year and a half ago, NVIDIA opened up a patent infringement case against Samsung and Qualcomm, claiming that the various GPUs used by the two firms violated various NVIDIA patents. In response, Samsung opened up their own counter-suit, claiming that NVIIDA and its partners were violating Samsung patents. Since then, things have not progressed well for NVIDIA, with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling that Samsung’s GPUs don’t infringe on NVIDIA’s patents, while also ruling that NVIDIA’s GPUs did infringe on Samsung’s patents.

Now with the final ruling on Samsung’s counter-suit originally scheduled for today, NVIDIA has announced that they have buried the hatchet with Samsung, ending all litigation between the companies. In their announcement, NVIDIA notes that both companies have ended their suits with the US courts, US ITC, and the US Patent office, effective immediately. In turn, both companies have agreed to cross-license “a small number of patents by each company to the other,” while noting that this is not a broad cross-licensing agreement. All other terms of the deal – such as any potential payments – are not being disclosed.

As noted by Bloomberg, NVIDIA faced a potential import ban on some of their products should they have lost the final ruling on the Samsung counter-suit, so combined with their earlier losses at the ITC, there was a clear need for NVIDIA to settle the case rather than waiting on ITC and court rulings. This, in turn, seemingly puts a wrench in NVIDIA’s overall mobile patent licensing efforts, as the Samsung case was their best opportunity to get a ruling that other mobile GPUs were violating their patents. That there is some cross-licensing going on between Samsung and NVIDIA does mean that NVIDIA holds at least some patents that Samsung believes they need, but that this is being settled quietly out of court means that it’s hard to imagine that NVIDIA has a strong position for further patent licensing efforts.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • BurntMyBacon - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    @ET: "..."The patents cover an implementation of SRAM, a shared computer bus system with arbiter and a memory sub-system with a data strobe buffer." ..."

    Samsung owns the patents for 1) an implementation of SRAM, 2) a shared bus with an arbiter, and 3) memory sub-systems with a data strobe buffer? Or is it that they own a patent on using them all in conjunction?

    1) I suppose it makes sense that they could patent an (singular) implementation of SRAM. It is, however, hard to believe that nVidia could accidentally run afoul of this as they could just select an other implementation (probably more suitable to GPUs).

    2) Shared buses and arbiters go hand in hand and are also a common with plenty of prior precedent. They must again be talking about a single implementation that would be hard to accidentally run afoul of.

    3) A memory subsystem with a data strobe buffer seems specific enough (for the US patent system) that they might have something here. If you were aware of it, I can't imagine that you wouldn't just design it a little differently, though you might select an infringing design without knowing.

    Seems more likely that this is a case of using these (mostly) common elements in a specific manor that infringes the overall architecture patent.
  • DarkKnyte - Saturday, May 7, 2016 - link

    Nvidia invented the GPU? Lol. You've got to be like what, 15? I bet you think Nvidia invented SLI too.

    The first dedicated graphics processing units (i.e. GPU) were single chips in the 70's. These chips were the actual hardware responsible for drawing graphics, sprites, and colors on a screen.

    Nvidia, AFTER Voodoo helped popularize the *3D* graphics consumer segment. Voodoo created the 3D PC graphics market that Nvidia latched on to. Nvidia is responsible for a lot of great things in the GPU space, but they haven't created any markets. They've always innovated into markets already created by others.
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, May 2, 2016 - link

    I have a feeling that Samsung has a better team of lawyers...
  • invasmani - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    I'd imagine so given that I'm pretty certain it's the top business in South Korea after all they make just about everything too it's a rather diverse company more so than people might first expect.
  • BurntMyBacon - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    @Notmyusualid: "I have a feeling that Samsung has a better team of lawyers..."

    Well, they have been practicing with Apple, so ...
  • Samus - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    Well, obviously they would, they are a much larger company than nVidia, and Samsung lawyers have had a lot more experience with these sorts of cases over the last decade.
  • aryonoco - Monday, May 2, 2016 - link

    Good. This was s stupid move on Nvidia's part anyway.

    Nvidia is a stable, profitable engineering company with growth potential and admirable products. They are not a Rambus or a Tivo, and don't need to resort to those tactics.
  • Yojimbo - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    It wasn't a stupid move. It was an attempt to "open ports" like Commodore Perry bringing a warship to Japan, I think. Qualcomm has crucial patents regarding CDMA and they use them to leverage sales of their modems and Snapdragon chips. It forced TI out, NVIDIA out, and Icera already had filed a suit against them before NVIDIA bought them. I think NVIDIA tried to use their GPU patents to gain leverage with Samsung to compete on a more equal footing with Qualcomm: get them to license their IP or buy their SOCs, to fight fire with fire, so to speak. It didn't work. Not sure why, I would have thought that AMDs and NVIDIAs patents were crucial to the modern GPU features that mobile GPUs have started to use now, just as Quallcomms patents are crucial to CDMA-capable modems. Maybe NVIDIA doesn't have a strong patent position, but who knows with this patent system. It seems to be broken. As I recall, Apple won a case that it had patents on a parallelpiped shaped phone and icon movements which follow real-world physics. Ridiculous.

    Anyway, now that China has punished Qualcomm, the US and EU now seem to be taking the antitrust allegations against Qualcomm seriously, whereas they weren't previously. NVIDIA wants $350M in damages from Qualcomm saying that Qualcomm's illegal actions caused the failure of their Icera unit. If Qualcomm is forced to change their tactics NVIDIA may well get at least part of what they wanted by their patent suit, anyway.
  • Yojimbo - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    I meant to say "It forced TI out, NVIDIA out, and Icera already had filed a suit against Qualcomm before NVIDIA bought Icera."
  • BurntMyBacon - Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - link

    @Yojimbo: "... , I would have thought that AMDs and NVIDIAs patents were crucial to the modern GPU features that mobile GPUs have started to use now, ..."

    Qualcomm's current GPU division originated at ATi, so it's possible that they have the patents they need. Purchase of ATi handheld graphics division and Imageon graphics technology for $65M completed early 2009.

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