Back in September NVIDIA filed patent infringement complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm. The crux of the issue being that NVIDIA believes that GPUs from Qualcomm, ARM, and Imagination all violate several of NVIDIA’s patents. Ultimately after failing to come to a licensing agreement with Samsung, NVIDIA took the matter to the courts. Complicating the matter is that in the case of infringement there is uncertainly and disagreement over who would be responsible – the chip designer or the hardware vendor – which led to NVIDIA taking the especially risky step of filing the suit against both Samsung and one of their GPU suppliers, Qualcomm.

This is a case that will take years to resolve, but in the meantime given the high profile nature of the case and the powerful parties involved, there was a high probability that counter-suits would be filed in response to NVIDIA’s initial complaints. This came to pass last week, with Samsung filing a suit in US federal court accusing NVIDIA and system builder Velocity Micro of infringing on multiple Samsung patents and false advertising regarding the SHIELD Tablet (to the detriment of Samsung).

Overall Samsung’s patent claims involve 8 patents, with NVIDIA accused of violating 6 and Velocity Micro accused of violating all 8. Interestingly, the patents range from technical (cache control) to physical (“method for rolling a metal strip”), which is why NVIDIA is not being accused of violating all 8 patents since they are a fabless semiconductor firm. The inclusion of Velocity Micro is rather odd at first, and this appears to be a case of Samsung going after both the IP designer and the hardware vendor just as NVIDIA did with their initial suit against Samsung and Qualcomm. However, Velocity Micro is one of NVIDIA’s closest partners, and they are involved in selling systems containing the full triad of NVIDIA products: GeForce, Quadro, and Tesla.

As with NVIDIA’s initial suit it will likely take years to resolve Samsung’s suit if it goes all the way. More likely however this is a calculated move on Samsung’s part for if the two firms reach a negotiated settlement. By counter-suing NVIDIA over patent infringement, Samsung has the option to take NVIDIA to the bargaining table and cross-license patents as opposed to paying licensing fees, a significantly cheaper outcome to say the least. However all of this is contingent on which patent infringement claims are upheld and whether the two firms let their respective cases even go that far, as the two can always settle beforehand.

In the meantime this is likely not the last we have heard of this case. With the expected court date still years off and the US International Trade Commission conducting their own investigation, there is a lot left to happen before any of these suits reach a courtroom.

Update: NVIDIA has posted a response over on their blog. There is no new information, but in it they detail their intention to fight the Samsung suit and reiterate that they consider the SHIELD Tablet to be faster than the Galaxy Note 4.

Update #2: Velocity Micro was apparently caught completely off guard at the lawsuit, so it took a bit longer for them to respond. Randy Copeland, President and CEO of Velocity Micro, posted their official response today (11/12/2014). Of note is that Velocity Micro feels their inclusion in Samsung's lawsuit appears to be more of a legal tactic to get the trials moved into the Virginia courts:

"Samsung has decided to drag us in to its legal battle with NVIDIA purely for the purpose of claiming that the Federal District Court for Virginia's Eastern District here in Richmond, also informally known as "the rocket docket" by some, is a reasonable jurisdiction for their litigation. They tactically need Velocity, a Richmond company, to be part of this new suit so they can have a faster time to trial to counter their lawsuits with NVIDIA that are pending in those other courts. They are trying to beat NVIDIA to the punch on other fronts, but they are all too willing to throw a private company under the proverbial bus for their own strategy reasons."

Source: Law360 (via Beyond3D)

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  • hpglow - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't most of these lawsuits based on occlusion culling techniques? Something that was invented with the Power VR series back in the 90s. How did nvidia get a patent on something they didn't invent, or purchase?
  • ET - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    IIRC the NVIDIA patents include putting a transform and lighting engine on the same chip as the rasterisation. On the face of it that's a stupid patent, but the details would determine whether other companies are actually infringing this and whether it should be struck down for being obvious. After all, you can't patent just the idea of putting these together, it's the exact method which matters.
  • chizow - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    The exact patents in question are outlined here:

    Imagination's defense of "we used to make a popular tile-based rendering GPU in the early 2000s but switched to a unified shader pipeline recently because everyone else did" probably isn't going to hold up well in court.
  • name99 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Well since Imagination IS NOT BEING SUED, it doesn't really matter what their defense is...

    How about we deal with the lawsuit that's ACTUALLY happening, rather than wandering off into some strange legal-fan-fiction world where nVidia sues Apple, Imagination and every other entity on your corporate hate list?
  • chizow - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    They are not directly being sued but Samsung and Qualcomm license their IP in building their SoCs. Going after the OEM necessarily includes the disputed IP from their vendors, Imagination and ARM, so winning against the OEM means they win against ARM and Imagination. As Samsung dismissively stated, they see it as a "supplier issue" and nothing more.

    From the Nvidia brief:

    "We are asking the ITC to block shipments of Samsung Galaxy mobile phones and tablets containing Qualcomm’s Adreno, ARM’s Mali or Imagination’s PowerVR graphics architectures. We are also asking the Delaware court to award damages to us for the infringement of our patents. - See more at:
  • name99 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Samsung can spin it however they like, but Imagination is not being sued here. Plain and simple.
    If I sue Apple, I am not suing TSMC, regardless of the fact that TSMC is an Apple supplier.

    "NVIDIA CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation,


    SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD., a South Korea corporation; SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC., a New York corporation; SAMSUNG TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMERICA, LLC, a limited liability Delaware corporation; SAMSUNG SEMICONDUCTOR, INC., a California corporation; and QUALCOMM INC., a Delaware corporation,
    "This civil action arises from Defendants’ manufacture, use, sale or offers for sale
    within the United States or importation into the United States of products such as smart phones and tablet computers that infringe patents owned by NVIDIA."

    nV presumably reserve the right to sue Imagination or anyone they like for any reason they like at any time in the future, but right here and right now they are suing Qualcomm and they are suing Samsung, that is all.

    They DO make a big deal in the suit about how they (nV) have done so much work in GPU research, while QC and Samsung have done fsckall. ("Qualcomm and Samsung are not GPU pioneers nor are they innovators in graphics technology") If that is a large part of their argument, then it would suggest they're less interested in suing Imagination and the Mali part of ARM precisely because they can't make that same argument.

    The fact that Imagination is listed in the qualifier for which phones nV wants blocked does not mean that Imagination is at fault. For example the specific point(s) on which nV wants to sue Samsung may relate to some aspect of how Samsung is integrating the Imagination cell into an Exynos, rather than the cell itself --- for example if I sued Apple based on how they packaged their TSMC part onto the iPhone PCB.
  • chizow - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Again, you are failing to acknowledge the fact the IP of their suppliers is integral to the case Nvidia filed. The only reason Nvidia just went after the OEMs is because that automatically gets everyone involved into the courtroom, as both Samsung and Qualcomm are going to call on their IP vendors to provide proof the IP they are licensing is backed by their own patents. Once they have shown they can't do this and don't have the patents to back their licensed IP, Samsung can then go after them for part of the damages and licenses they will be forced to pay Nvidia by court order.

    As you can see again, from the Nvidia filing:

    "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. - See more at:

    They are going after all of them, and as I already listed, they specifically named each graphics IP supplier.
  • frenchy_2001 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    you are both right and wrong:
    - there are 2 different legal actions:
    * one is patent infringement in Delaware, targeting Samsung and Qualcom
    * the other is with the ITC to block import of products, targeting Samsung and ALL their graphics suppliers (Qualcom for Snapdragons, ARM and PowerVR for Samsung's own chips)

    So, Samsung conter-sued in Federal Court (IP problem) in Virginia.
  • fm123 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    “method for rolling a metal strip” is listed as patent 6282938, but that is the wrong patent listed on the legal filing (embarrasing). The correct patent is 6262938, as noted further in the filing.
  • yannigr2 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    The fact that Samsung is suing Nvidia for different patents, means that they believe that Nvidia will eventually win the case for the gpu.

    I see an outcome in favor of Nvidia, with both companies coming to a cross-license patent agreement and Samsung also agreeing to license Maxwell architecture, or whatever tech Nvidia is selling when they come to that agreement, over other gpu techs.

    Nvidia is trying desperately for years to create a proprietary ecosystem where everyone will be paying them for their gpus and any competitor in the gpu business will have a huge disadvantage, being unable to offer proprietary technologies like GSync, PhysX, CUDA, Gameworks etc.

    Nvidia was always greedy and unfortunately it seems that they are winning. We are moving to a very ugly monopoly in gpus in a few years from now.

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