An administrative law judge from the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday found that NVIDIA Corp. infringed several patents of Samsung Electronics. The judge ruled that NVIDIA’s graphics processing units (GPUs) and system-on-chips (SoCs) infringed three fundamental patents that belong to Samsung. NVIDIA said that patents were outdated, but if the full agency finds that there was a violation, certain NVIDIA’s products could be banned in the U.S.

David P. Shaw, an administrative law judge from Washington D.C., found that NVIDIA infringed U.S. patents 6,147,385, 6,173,349 and 7,804,734. The patents cover an implementation of SRAM, a shared computer bus system with arbiter and a memory sub-system with a data strobe buffer. Some of the patents were granted back in the nineties and such inventions may be considered as fundamental technologies or may not be used at all by modern chips. One of the patents will expire next year, hence, it will not have any effect on NVIDIA’s business even though it was infringed.

NVIDIA’s lawyers in turn have said that Samsung had “chosen three patents that have been sitting on the shelf for years collecting nothing but dust.” NVIDIA hopes that when several judges review the case in the coming months, it will be found not guilty of patent infringement.

“We are disappointed,” Hector Marinez, a spokesman for NVIDIA, said a statement. “We look forward to seeking review by the full ITC which will decide this case several months from now.”

Samsung accused NVIDIA of infringing its patents in mid-November, 2014, two months after the Santa Clara, California-based developer of chips sued the Suwon, South Korea-based conglomerate. NVIDIA asserted that graphics processing units integrated into Samsung’s Exynos system-on-chips as well as into Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs infringe its fundamental graphics patents. NVIDIA asked ITC to ban sales of Samsung’s smartphones and tablets that use Exynos and Snapdragon chips, which allegedly infringed its patents, in the U.S. Samsung also asked the commission to stop sales of certain NVIDIA-based products in the U.S.

Last week a group of six ITC judges issued their final ruling concerning NVIDIA’s allegations against Samsung and Qualcomm. They found that Samsung and Qualcomm did not infringe two out of three patents of NVIDIA, whereas one patent was considered invalid. The ruling was very important not only for Samsung and Qualcomm, but for numerous other companies whom license graphics processing technologies from companies like ARM Holdings and Imagination Technologies, or buy SoCs from Qualcomm.

NVIDIA is the world’s largest supplier of discrete graphics processing units for personal computers. The company’s Tegra system-on-chips for mobile devices did not become very popular among makers of smartphones and tablets, which is why the company changed its SoC strategy in 2014 – 2015 to include going after vehicles, drones and other automotive applications.

NVIDIA Corp. has been trying to monetize its intellectual property by licensing its technologies and patents to third-parties starting from mid-2013. So far, NVIDIA has not managed to license its Kepler or Maxwell graphics cores to any other chip developer. Moreover, Samsung and Qualcomm will also not pay NVIDIA because they did not violate any of its patents, according to the ITC rulings.

The results of the legal fight between Samsung and NVIDIA are not final. Although the U.S. ITC found no violations by Samsung and infringements by NVIDIA, usually patent-related legal battles last for many years.

Image of gavel by Douglas Palmer, Flickr.

Source: Bloomberg

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  • medi03 - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    Ever heard of Adreno?
    AMD licensed stuff runs on most of the mobile chips out there.
  • medi03 - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    Fermi was particularly bright star on the 15 year old path of optimizing for "power consumption".\
    Are you on a crack or something?

    nVidia tries to leverage their market position all the way:
    1) PhysX and co
    2) GSync
    3) That nice thing they did to, XFX
    4) That nice thing they did to, cough, Anand, you know, after which comparing overclocked cherry picked Fermi vs stock AMD (as nVidia wanted it) somehow become acceptable on this site. (a shame, really...)
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, December 26, 2015 - link

    "They can't compete" is the usual fallback rhetoric for AMD.
  • shm224 - Thursday, December 24, 2015 - link

    thought you were talking about Apple. Perhaps nVidia is hoping Obama would come to their rescue and reverse Samsung's win. USA!! USA!!
  • babadivad - Monday, December 28, 2015 - link

    Isn't nVidia a Taiwanese company?
  • testbug00 - Monday, December 28, 2015 - link

    Nvidia was founded and is based on California if I can remember.
  • shm224 - Monday, December 28, 2015 - link

    @babadivad: the founder and CEO of nVidia is from Taiwan, but nVidia is a US company.
  • Samus - Thursday, December 24, 2015 - link

    Basically NVidia has great engineering talent. Every other aspect of their business, especially their business ethics, PR, and analytics are very poor. And I agree, they are very anticompetitive.

    They are also throwing their partners under the bus with these lawsuits, because it drags them into the mess.

    Although NVidia has superior products, it made me go with a R9 380 in my most recent system. My main PC still have a GTX970, which is an amazing card...I just thought I'd try something new and so far the AMD card is very nice, the Asus Strix. The fans don't even run at idle.
  • beginner99 - Thursday, December 24, 2015 - link

    All NV fans should read this. Do you want to pay more so that the seller of your GPU can waste your money in stupid legal battles or do you want to spent less for more performance? NV wasn't exactly a sympathy-inducing company before and patent-trolling isn't helping. I'm not a fan of Samsung but I'm glad that Jen-Hsun Huang got demolished by them. Sorry, but you must suffer from god-complex if you for 1 second believe that a company as small as NV can win a patent battle vs. Samsung. Even if you are 100% sure you have one new and valid patent, they will just pull out 10 to counter-sue you.
  • Samus - Thursday, December 24, 2015 - link

    I'm not a fan of Samsung, either, but they have a respectable legal department. As an iPhone owner, I still think the whole battle between Apple and Samsung is frivolous. Samsung has never made a phone that looks anything like an iPhone...and in fact, it is now the other way around.

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