Samsung/NVIDIA Case Update: US ITC Finds Samsung GPUs Non-Infringingby Ryan Smith on October 12, 2015 9:00 AM EST
Following a six month lull in the ongoing legal battle between NVIDIA and Samsung over GPU updates, there is finally some new movement on the case. After previously receiving a favorable Markman Hearing outcome back in April, an initial ruling from the ITC has been made.
In last week’s ruling, Judge Thomas Pender has ruled that Samsung and co-defendant Qualcomm are not infringing on two of NVIDIA’s patents. Specifically, the judge ruled that none of the relevant Andreo, PowerVR, or Mali GPUs infringe on NVIDIA’s vertex processing patent (7209140) or their patent on multithreaded execution of programs (7038685).
Meanwhile in the case of a third patent, NVIDIA’s shadow mapping patent (6690372), the judge ruled that all three GPU families infringe on that patent. However at the same time the judge also ruled that the specific claim in the patent that NVIDIA was using in their case was invalid, essentially failing a novelty and prior art test. As a result Samsung/Qualcomm cannot be held liable for violations of an unenforceable patent. Furthermore the judge also ruled that the claim NVIDIA was invoking on the vertex processing patent – though Samsung/Qualcomm's GPUs did not violate it – was also invalid on the grounds of not being non-obvious.
As a result this means that Samsung and Qualcomm have made it through the initial round of the ITC suit successfully defending themselves on all claims made by NVIDIA. NVIDIA in turn has stated that they will be asking the full 6-member US ITC commission to review the ruling and to confirm whether the shadow mapping patent is valid. Otherwise a final decision from the ITC is expected at some point in the future.
Finally, while the ITC case is winding its way through the works over there, NVIDIA and Samsung’s federal lawsuits against each other still remain. In these suits Samsung is accusing NVIDIA and partner Velocity Micro of violating various patent claims, and NVIDIA is accusing Samsung and supplier Qualcomm of violating various patent claims as well. So although a major step in the ongoing legal battle between Samsung and NVIDIA, it’s likely the various cases involving the two firms will continue for years to come.
Addendum: Last week's announcement only dealt with three patents, less than half of the number that NVIDIA had in their Markman Hearing. Thanks to some digging by SemiAccurate, we now know what happened to the other four. It turns out that over the summer NVIDIA filed to withdraw the complaints tied to those four patents, and furthermore withdrew some specific complaints regarding specific claims on some of the reamining patents, leading to last week's ruling on the final three. This is why the ITC ruling is as brief as it is while still covering all of NVIDIA's outstanding complaints