In a quick update to the ongoing legal saga between NVIDIA, Samsung, and Qualcomm over the future of GPU patents and licensing, NVIDIA has published an update on the case after their most recent hearing.

As is now common for patent infringement lawsuits, a pre-trial Markman hearing was held by the judge overseeing the case in order to better determine the language of the patents, the actual legal claims, and how they will be interpreted by the judge at trial. The purpose of a Markman hearing is essentially to hammer out legal definitions ahead of time so that the case is argued and decided on facts and merits as opposed to arguing the definition of various terms and technologies.

In what NVIDIA calls a “favorable ruling” from the ITC, NVIDIA has received what they consider to be favorable definitions in 6 of their 7 disputed claims. To be clear this is not any kind of ruling on the validity of the claims themselves, but only that the court has (largely) sided with NVIDIA’s definitions for those 6 claims.

As for the importance of this pre-trial hearing, as NVIDIA is the plaintiff in this case, doing well at the Markman hearing is essentially one of the several hurdles they have needed to clear to bring the case to a full trial. Alongside various pre-trial motions to have the case outright dismissed, a poor Markman hearing outcome can stop a case as it would have put NVIDIA on the back foot in the full trial. This latest ruling essentially means the case wil proceed as planned, with the next hearing scheduled for June.

Finally, NVIDIA also posted a quick update on Samsung’s counter-suit against NVIDIA and Velocity Micro. The judge in that case has denied NVIDIA’s request to have the case moved from Virginia (Velocity Micro’s home state) to California (NVIDIA’s home state).

Source: NVIDIA

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Samus - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Considering Samsung has been in hot water dozens of times for not licensing patents, and other companies you've mentioned haven't, my guess would be the other companies, as you've suggested, are licensing the patents.

    And you're right, Samsung probably looked at it like this: we sold 60 million devices that infringe on this IP during the period they want us to license for (let's just say...) $15 per device sold.

    That's almost $1 BILLION right there. Samsungs' legal dept probably said "let them sue us and we'll negotiate it down to less than that." Samsung pays less, legal department stays funded, nVidia gets something, everyone wins.

    And you can bet this trial will end in a settlement.
  • CPUGPUGURU - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Good seeing Nvidia aggressively pursuing payment from infringing Samsung and Qualcomm, why should they not pay for use of Nvidia's market leading graphics IP when Intel does.
  • testbug00 - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    The issue isn't if they pay or not. The question is how much is Nvidia asking for, and, was it willing to accept industry standard rates? The ARM rate for a full GPU designed for you to implement is under a percentage.

    I find it hard to believe Nvidia would accept sub 1% royalty. For better or worse.
  • CPUGPUGURU - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Why would ARM be any guide to industry standard when its ARM that's infringing on Nvidia's IP.

    Nvidia payed for the R&D and patents and ARM takes want it wants and charges Samsung/Qualcomm want it wants this in no way sets the price for a license agreement for Nvidia's IP who owns the IP in the first place. Samsung/Qualcomm/ARM need to negotiate a agreement and its now going to be more expensive because of damages and court costs.

    We'll see how this plays out, for better or worse depending on whose side you're on.
  • Penti - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Some of the IP companies has made GPU's with the supposedly infringing IP since before some of the patents where filed. Nvidia basically claims that everything other than their chips and Intel's is infringing. Samsung, Qualcomm, ARM, Broadcom, Imagination and others own a lot of GPU IP that is valid too.
  • CPUGPUGURU - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    "In what NVIDIA calls a “favorable ruling” from the ITC, NVIDIA has received what they consider to be favorable definitions in 6 of their 7 disputed claims."

    NVIDIA tried for years to come to some kind of agreement, many did such as Intel but ARM Samsung, Qualcomm and others did not and will be held accountable for infringing on NVIDIA'S Patent. NVIDIA is not disputing that, "others own a lot of GPU IP" NVIDIA is protecting their patents from those who refused to come to the table and hammer out a agreement. If/When NVIDIA wins this case others will come to table and talk but it would of been better for all and less expensive to have talked before it had to be taken to court. If/When NVIDIA wins they will be negotiating on the side of strength.
  • Penti - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Intel agreement stems from their 2004 chipset licensing deal with Nvidia. They never tried to block the sale of Intel products or turned to ITC in their Intel dispute. They don't mention any deal with anyone else.

    They didn't try for years with Samsung as they didn't actually say which patents (in full, they mentioned three to them on 7 August 2012 and two more on 15 January 2014, they guess Qualcomm knew from discussion with Samsung but didn't talk to them) they wanted to be payed for until January 2014 and didn't talk to Qualcomm at all! Don't be ridiculous just read their argument in their suit instead.
  • chizow - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    And this is where the actual relevant patents come into play, lay them out on the table for all to see. You don't go from tile-based 2D renders to fully programmable shader architectures overnight, and you can't say "well we just copied everyone else just because".

    Its not disputed that Nvidia invented most, if not all of the patents that are in dispute, they have some cross-licensing with ATI/AMD in that regard but the fact the dGPU race has been a 2 horse race for the last decade long before the advent of smartphones and SoCs should tell you the likes of Imagination and ARM probably don't have a lot of relevant IP to make a case....
  • Penti - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    Imagination made their first 3D GPU back in 95 and Qualcomm bought Adreno from AMD and made lots of contributions in the OGLES2.0 era when Nvidia was absent as well as hiring lots of people and patenting graphics stuff even before they bought the Imageon line. Both Imagination and AMD has been in the game longer than Nvidia. Nvidia didn't go after Qualcomm after they bought the Adreno technologies and as they filed the suit against them they still hadn't talked to Qualcomm according to it. If they wanted to claim that they have the sole right to produce GPU's or sell GPU IP they should have done so back then around 08. They didn't dig up the patents before 7 Aug 2012 and 15 Jan 2014 and they were irrelevant when they finally agreed with Intel in 2011. Most of them patents stuff that was already publicly disclosed or on the market, which you can't do so most claims probably could be invalidated. Samsung and Qualcomm has lots of semiconductor IP which is infringed upon by Nvidia. It's just that nobody licenses every bullshit patent and mostly they are not offered to be licensed either before suits happens. When you license IP you also get sublicensing rights to the technology in many cases and even ARM had fully programmable GPU's in the mobile space before Nvidia.
  • chizow - Thursday, April 9, 2015 - link

    @Penti, you're wrong, PowerVR was always behind Nvidia and even ATI as their last commercial dGPU card the Kyro2 lacked major functionality such as Hardware T&L. By the time programmable shaders were mainstream (invented by Nvidia btw, without dispute with GeForce 3) PowerVR wasn't even a player in discrete graphics. They managed to survive in embedded designs, then suddenly start licensing IP and enjoying a resurgence in smartphones and smartdevices. Lucky coincidence!!! Unfortunately for them there is a huge gap in what they support and what their IP is capable of, so it should be very easy for the courts to sort that out.

    Qualcomm was named in the suit btw, and while they did buy Adreno from AMD it is becoming more and more clear they only bought their engineering team and not any of the actual IP. The fact AMD is talking about getting back into mobile graphics and is also rumored to be licensing their IP all but confirms this.

    So, this again leads to the fact Nvidia has a very strong case, after all they have laid out their patents on the table for all to see and have products unbroken in timeline from their inception until now demonstrating their leadership in the industry.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now