In a blog, Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) stated that it has filed patent infringement complaints with the US District Court in Delaware (where most US companies are incorporated) as well as with the International Trade Comission regarding Samsung (KRX:005935) and Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) infringement of its patents (You can view the complaints here (ITC) and here (Delaware)) .
Nvidia is alleging that Samsung’s devices that use Qualcomm’s chips are infringing upon Nvidia’s own technologies that have been patented. Not just that, but by filing a complaint with the ITC, Nvidia is seeking that such devices that infringe upon these patents be banned from importation and sale within the United States.
The devices that Nvidia claims infringe upon their patents include the Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3, and Galaxy S4 as well as the Galaxy Tab S and Galaxy Note Pro. Nvidia claims seven different patents were violated by Samsung’s Exynos processors as well as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that are claimed to infringe upon these patents include the Snapdragon S4 (using the Adreno 225), Snapdragon 400 (using the Adreno 305), Snapdragon 600 (using the Adreno 320), Snapdragon 800 and 801 (using the Adreno 330), and Snapdragon 805 (using the Adreno 420).
A careful reading Nvidia’s patent infringement complaint shows that Nvidia has made a clear decision here to go after Samsung and Qualcomm. Obviously, this hurts Nvidia’s chances of ever landing a design win inside of Samsung, but by going after Samsung and Qualcomm, the company goes after the biggest seller of Android smartphones and the biggest seller of Android smartphone SoCs. Additionally, the complaint states that Nvidia is claiming that Samsung infringes on their GPU patents by saying Samsung uses Mali and PowerVR graphics, which aren’t actually theirs but rather graphics they license from ARM and Imagination technologies, however Nvidia has chosen not to include them in the suit.
Qualcomm and Samsung are not GPU pioneers or innovators in graphics technology. Qualcomm dominates the global market for smartphone applications processors, with a market share exceeding 50%, and is also a leader in tablet application processors. Samsung leads the global market in sales of smartphones, selling about twice as many as its nearest competitor, and is also a global leader in the sales of tablet computers, nearly tripling its market share over the past two years. Many of Samsung’s smartphones and tablet computers are powered by mobile processors supplied by Qualcomm, which use GPUs commercially known as
“Adreno.” Other smartphones and tablets sold by Samsung use GPUs commercially known as “Mali” or “PowerVR.” All of these products infringe the Asserted Patents. The market success of Qualcomm and Samsung in these areas is built on the back of NVIDIA’s pioneering graphics technology, and Qualcomm and Samsung continue to release new products using NVIDIA’s technology.
The patents in question, 6,198,488, 6,992,667, 7,038,685, 7,015,913, 6,697,063, 7,209,140 and 6,690,372 all pertain in one way or another to graphics patents and it appears quite clear that Nvidia is attacking the two biggest players in Tegra’s own mobile SoC space.
The claims Nvidia makes are all utility patents and they go into deep technical detail about certain graphics processes that Nvidia believes Qualcomm and Samsung are infringing upon. The reality of the situation is that Nvidia could theoretically sue Apple, Imagination Technologies, ARM and virtually any smartphone or SoC manufacturer in the world for patent infringement based upon these claims. But Nvidia is choosing not to instead going after Samsung and Qualcomm, and really it seems like Samsung is just collateral damage here, but it could also be that Nvidia wants to weaken Samsung in order to make room for other vendors that might use their chips like Tegra K1. It could also be that Nvidia may just want to generate IP licensing revenue from all of Samsung’s billions of dollars in sales of Galaxy devices and that could be good enough for them. Until we get some comment from Qualcomm and this thing actually goes to court, we probably won’t know the outcome of this suit. Once again, the tech industry continues to sue one another for patent infringement.