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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  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    nVidia: "Eh, we'll sue you, Samsung. And we'll sue one of your high profile partners that you chose over us, too. That'll put some uncertainty around TWO targets we don't particularly like and make you more likely to work with us instead of Qualcomm."

    Samsung: "After long and careful consideration, we decline the option of working with you. Instead, we'll sue you and one of YOUR partners. Now explain why we included them like we had to explain to Qualcomm why you sued them. See you in court."

    nVidia: "Grrrrr. Argh. Let's talk about this."

    Samsung: "Talk about... what?"
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    I am pretty sure NVidia took a close look at the potential to be counter-sued before going ahead with filing a lawsuit, as counter-suing is a very common tactic. The counter-suit brought by Samsung, if valid, seems to cover their shield portable and/or tablet device, which accounts for a very small percentage of their revenue. Financial damages from that would seem to be extremely small compared to the financial damages in question if NVidia's suit is upheld. In other words, I think your fan-fiction dialog is way off.
  • frenchy_2001 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Truth is Nvidia would prefer to Sue Qualcomm directly, but our IP licensing system is so complicated, that there is no consensus on *WHO* should pay for such a license, the chip manufacturer or the final device manufacturer (or any integrator in between).

    Similar questions were raised (and left unsolved) during legal proceeding between Samsung and Apple or Motorola/Google and Microsoft.

    There probably was a game of "pass the buck" between all the suppliers, with none willing to pay. The court system is exactly where it should be resolved.

    I have no idea *HOW* it will end, but getting a definite pinning of responsibilities would be neat either way.
  • quasimodo123 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    This is the problem -- Nvidia didn't invent GPUs, and number of patents does not equal quality or inventiveness. Not everything deserves strong patent protection.
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    That post doesn't tell us much. It's just a seemingly off-the-cuff opinion of one person with a completely unknown background. It doesn't even quote the actual patents so that we can make our own uninformed judgments, or at least compare the wording of the patents to what the author claims.
  • quasimodo123 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    You can look the patents up on Google with 30 seconds of effort. Your posts suggest that you believe lawsuits are only brought when a company is certain it will win. That is not remotely the historical experience of patent litigation. I posted the link because I thought the angles of attack were interesting and reasonable, and were evidently not put forward by a rank amateur. My own reading of the patents suggests that these are strong defenses. Nvidia has indirectly brought an action against ARM and Imagination (who would customarily indemnify Samsung and are likely to show up in court) and directly against Qualcomm. All three of these companies are primarily in the business of IP licensing, and are likely to have developed products that can resist an IP challenge. Why don't you pause to consider why Simon Segars is confident that Mali will survive this challenge, rather than side with a company that has belatedly decided to egregiously rent-seek in the mobile market that it has had precious little success in otherwise?
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    I'm not siding with anyone, you are. I am just refuting your confident dismissal of the case. The reader of that article could look up the patents, but that doesn't excuse the author from putting that information there. Unless the texts are exceedingly long it's a bit rude not to. It's also useful in being able to determine if the author is referring to the whole thing or just part of it.

    What does it mean if Simon Segars says he's confident Mali will survive the challenge? If the lawsuit is thrown out, Mali will survive the challenge. If ARM enters into a license agreement with NVidia, Mali will survive the challenge. And if ARM later chooses to discontinue Mali and use another line of GPUs, Simon Segars will quietly call it a strategic move.
  • Vinny DePaul - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Samsung should be ashamed to drag a small American company in the battles between two giants.
  • misuspita - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I'm sure they are right now in the church saying 3 Ave Maria's asking for forgiveness...

    It's a war that could potentially cost Samsung billions of dollars, so I am sure they don't give a flying f**k about another company, be it american or not. They use all and every move legally usable.

    Oh, and be sure it's not Samsung that should be ashamed, but the legal team who brought the ideea to sue a small company to get the lawsuit in a "friendly" court. Which legal team I'm sure it's all proud red white and blue 'muricans...

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