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

Source: Reuters

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  • Mikemk - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    So what? Did they get tired of suing Apple and look for someone else to sue?
  • just4U - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    Is it even possible to grow tired of suing a Patent Troll like Apple?
  • JoeMonco - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    Because Samsung has never sued other people over patents? Riiiiiiight...
  • shm224 - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    @JoeMonco : Samsung is not generally known for their litigious behavior, as Apple is known for, despite being one of the largest patent holder in the world.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    Just to be clear here, NVIDIA started this by suing Samsung in 2014.
  • shm224 - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    @Mikemk : not sure what you mean. nVidia sued Samsung and, just like they did in Apple's case, Samsung counter-sued.
  • dragonsqrrl - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    Ya, but the thing is they didn't just counter sue Nvidia, they also sued Velocity Micro, who had nothing to do with this legal dispute. Samsung was basically willing throw a relatively small company who had nothing to do with this fight under the bus simply to give themselves a tactical advantage against Nvidia in court, a real dirt move.
  • shm224 - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    @dragonsqrrl : Sure, and Samsung doesn't have anything to do with this legal dispute, either. Samsung doesn't make their own GPU -- all their phones use either Qualcomm (Adreno), ARM (Mali), or Imgtech (PowerVR) -- and Samsung asked nVidia to resolve this matter with the makers of the GPUs. Instead, nVidia decided to go after the infringers' customer, Samsung. This is perfectly legal and Samsung can be liable for using infringed parts in their end products -- it's called secondary liability, or "indirect infringement."

    Now, this is where Velocity Micro, nVidia's customer, comes in. an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Samsung's lawsuit against nVidia sound perfectly fair to me.
  • shm224 - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    @dragonsqrrl : that being said, Samsung is going after Velocity Micro, nVidia's customer based in VA, only because of its location, in the eastern district court of Virginia. That's where Samsung wants the case to be tried -- it's just a legal maneuver to change the legal venue favorable to Samsung. Velocity Micro is a small company that has really nothing to offer to Samsung. Samsung isn't out to destroy it and Velocity Micro isn't even worried. In their response to the lawsuit, CEO released a message indictating that "... We know nothing about the previous issues between Samsung and Nvidia, and we don’t care."

    That's a pretty clever dirt move by Samsung in response to nVidia's scummy lawsuit.
  • dragonsqrrl - Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - link

    "that being said, Samsung is going after Velocity Micro, nVidia's customer based in VA, only because of its location, in the eastern district court of Virginia."

    Yep, there ya go. The legality of Samsung's response is irrelevant here, and no one is questioning it. Although I do question your interpretation of that quote from Velocity's CEO. I mean, you really had to stretch that one out of context to align it with your argument. He wasn't saying that he wasn't worried or didn't care about the impending litigation. He said that he didn't care about the issues or history between Nvidia and Samsung, as Velocity Micro has nothing to do with it. He went on to say "Regretfully, precious company resources and energy will be diverted from our core business and wasted to fight one of the world’s largest companies, just so they can play legal games with Nvidia and the court system." and "This is not our fight, and it’s unconscionable that Samsung is willing to completely disregard the effects and financial fallout this legal tactic will have on the undeserving employees of Velocity Micro and our local community." That's really shitty, but yes I know, it's perfectly legal so you have no problem with it. Further you say it's perfectly fair because Nvidia did the same thing to Samsung, but I think if you cared to take two steps outside the legal jargon you would see that it's not the same thing and it certainly isn't fair for a small boutique builder.

    He ended his letter by saying "If this is how Samsung operates, we want no part of it, and we hope others agree". It's really sad to me that apparently some people are so driven by their own personal biases and agendas that they are compelled to disagree.

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