Nvidia files patent suit against Samsung, Qualcomm

Injunction sought against Samsung devices and Snapdragon processors

Nvidia has filed a patent suit against Samsung and Qualcomm, the first time the company has started legal proceedings of this kind.

A post on the Nvidia website described it as, "an important day," for the company, one that brought the first patent lawsuit in its 21-year history. Nvidia claims it attempted to strike a licensing deal with Samsung after illustrating the links with its patents, but, "we made no progress."

The complaint, which was filed with both the International Trade Commission and the US District Court of Delaware, highlights 7 patents from Nvidia's 7,000-strong portfolio.

"Those patents include our foundational invention, the GPU, which puts onto a single chip all the functions necessary to process graphics and light up screens; our invention of programmable shading, which allows non-experts to program sophisticated graphics; our invention of unified shaders, which allow every processing unit in the GPU to be used for different purposes; and our invention of multithreaded parallel processing in GPUs, which enables processing to occur concurrently on separate threads while accessing the same memory and other resources."

Nvidia has accused Samsung and Qualcomm of, "building their profitability...and global market shares," through graphics technologies that violate its patents. Specifically, that includes tablets and smartphones that contain Samsung's Exynos processors: Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Note Pro, and more besides.

Nvidia's issue with Qualcomm is more problematic, as it extends to the company's ubiquitous Snapdragon processor line, including but not limited to the Snapdragon S4, Snapdragon 400, Snapdragon 600, Snapdragon 800 and 801, and Snapdragon 805.

Nvidia's dispute is with Qualcomm's Adreno GPUs, which are part of the Snapdragon architecture.

"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," the post on Nvidia's website read. "We are also asking the Delaware court to award damages to us for the infringement of our patents."

The full court documents can be found here and here.

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Latest comments (9)

Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
our invention of unified shaders
Are they going after AMD and PowerVR to name a couple? Many of these technologies have been in use for years. Am a little surprised to hear the news to be honest, but I guess the market is getting more and more competitive...
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robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard3 years ago
@Adam: it's possible, though, that AMD and PowerVR arranged a licence with nVidia... it's fairly common in the tech space I believe.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
It is. I thought they beat Nvidia to market though (unified architecture) lol could be wrong though.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 5th September 2014 11:50am

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd3 years ago
This is despicable. Because they can't compete they are attempting to stifle competition. This behaviour from them is deserving of a complete meltdown of their business.

For the uninitiated, everything they've supposedly invented already existed. Replace GPU for CPU and you'll realise they've done absolutely nothing new in terms of defining an innovative idea.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 3 years ago
This is despicable. Because they can't compete they are attempting to stifle competition. This behavior from them is deserving of a complete meltdown of their business
NVIDIA bought 3dfx, Silicon Graphics, and a few smaller companies, and they have been present in the PC 3D market since day #1,. As far as patents concerned, they probably had a hand in most of the graphics technologies in one way or the other since 1995.
As far as shading is concerned, AMD and NVIDA has some form of cross-licencing agreement since 2001, and they had a lawsuit with Intel, which ended with Intel paying 1.5 billion USD.
As in terms of shaders, while the Radeon 9700 was the first shader model 2 card (DirectX9) in late 2002, NVIDIA had the first card with programmable graphics pipeline with the GeForce3 in 2001. Of course, if you ignore what the still alive workstation market was doing at the time. Shaders as a term came from the shading languages used in renderers.

And NVIDIA is quite competitive, according to Steam 51% of the computers running steam clients on Windows contain an NVIDIA gpu. If they would be going against their competition, that would be AMD (ATi) or Intel. Ironically, in a way that is exactly what they actually do, as Qualcomm bought AMD/ATIs mobile division about 5 years ago. Adreno is an anagram of Radeon :)

What is more interesting, that NVIDIA choose to sue Samsung, not ARM. Samsung only licences hardware, does not design its own. Perhaps because ARM controls NVIDIA's cpu licencing, too ?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 5th September 2014 11:16pm

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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
Good points Tom and I followed a lot of that history too. The one thing I didn't know about was the AMD license agreement which is interesting.

Correct me if wrong, but when Keldon called out their competitiveness, I though he was referring to mobile, where to be honest Nvidia appear to be struggling vs Qualcomm and Samsung. If its a Samsung device (that happens to dominate the market) they tend to use Exynos SoCs as long as they are in supply, if not then Snapdragon. If its Apple, its Apple SoCs using ARM/PowerVR combo of licensed technologies. If its neither of those, its probably using Snapdragon.

On a technical level, I believe Nvidia are right up their with their latest GPU architecture but its clear the competition are getting into more phones and tablets. Had the situation been different, I feel doubtful we would be seeing their first ever patent suit at this stage in time. Why now and not years ago?
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 3 years ago
NVIDIA only has a marginal market share, maybe 2%, performance wise Tegra4 is the first that competitive in performance and battery life, but only in tablets. Probably too power hungry for mobiles, or they could not get contracts. Perhaps both.
But even then, its still a GPU., but Samsung was only named as they use Qualcomm chips.
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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe3 years ago
This IS probably the meltdown of their business, since way too many consumer devices are AMD based; all consoles and a decent amount of the mobile space - in the form of Adreno (Radeon)
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Paul Shirley Programmers 3 years ago
Tom Keresztes: "What is more interesting, that NVIDIA choose to sue Samsung, not ARM."

Since ARM make no physical devices it's pretty hard to sue them for patent infringement, ARM licensees are more appropriate. That said I'll be surprised if ARM don't have multiple defences and|or licences anyway.

I'd guess they're gambling Samsung have some devices not covered by licences. It's going to be fun watching this, licences could be inherited from the SoC suppliers and exhaustion will kick in, they could even be covered by Khronos Group membership. Or Samsung could be in a little trouble but not nearly enough to make Nvidia rich. Whatever happens I'll probably be retired before it's settled!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Shirley on 8th September 2014 6:48pm

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