Feeds

back to article Nvidia blasts sueballs at Qualcomm, Samsung – wants Galaxy kit banned

Nvidia claims to hold patents on core graphics processor technologies found in mobile phones and tablets, and is suing Qualcomm and Samsung as a result. The graphics chip giant has filed lawsuits against the two semiconductor goliaths, seeking damages and an injunction blocking US sales of what Nvidia claims are the companies' …

I've skimmed some of the patents and .... if you know how open GL works it's basically saying "here's the thing that does what the software tells it to do, how you would expect it to do it"

If I went into details this'd be really long, but it is implemented exactly how I would have thought (there may be neat tricks in the actual circuitry of the thing, but that's not documented)

However I am not sure what that means for the validity of the patents. I mean a CPU was invented, but saying stuff like "Instruction for loading data at address given by address register into register 8" - that's... obvious, sort of - it's hard to phrase. You have to move data into register 8 and it's describing a pointer!

There is no other way this could work... if that makes sense. it's like a drill, imagine you had to make something that drilled but couldn't use a motor,gearbox, and clamp setup. You can vary it a bit (maybe go like screwdrivers do, rather than a clamp a hexagonal "port" at the top...) but it's still a drill.

I can't think of any other way to make a drill! (as in device for drilling)

12
0

Patents aren't supposed to foreclose on every possible way of achieving a function. But I can think of some cases where they did, and were permitted to by the courts (one that springs to mind is a clip for tying grapevines to supports). Similarly, copyright isn't supposed to cover every possible expression of an idea; the key principle there is originality, and it's hard to imagine an original expression covering every expression of what's communicated. But something close to that has happened before - a particular case involving the layout of a betting form springs to mind there, too.

2
0
Bronze badge
Boffin

Close your eyes!

Yes, it looks like a patent for image processing. I have some personal capability for image processing, and I've helped produce and market three similar instances with such capabilities.

(Icon for appearances. Not that I looked at it.)

0
0
Anonymous Coward

What you are in effect saying, it's a natural solution to a problem, which is in practise possibly the only viable solution to achieve what is required.

By patenting the only solution possible, you've thus prevented everybody else from creating 3D graphics hardware, and the consequences of that are far reaching.

The idea of graphics pipelines, geometry engines for doing the matrix transformations, rasterisation, shading, it's been around long before NVidia came into the picture,for the most part, all NVidia have done is to integrate it on to a single chip, when very large density chips became available. NVidia didn't invent 3D graphics, it didn't event the processing pipeline concept, though it may have created a shader language.

It's a natual evolution for graphics technology, it's a natural evolution for just about any computing technology, It would have happened with or without Nvidia.

NVidia didn't invent system-on-chip (SoC), I'd say no one did..it happened as a consequence of chip manufacturers creating bigger and bigger gate count chips (smaller feature sizes), and customers/designers realised they could make use of the very large gate count chips.

8
0
Bronze badge

Thumbs up for nVidia

For actually listing the patients which they claim have been infringed upon.

10
0

Re: Thumbs up for nVidia

Exactly. I've actually been expecting this for some time.

2
0

Where's Radeon?

I'm surprised nVidia didn't mention the makers (ATI/AMD) of Radeon chipsets in the lawsuit.

3
0

Re: Where's Radeon?

ATI is 8 years older than Nvidia. So I'm sure ATI would be able to claim that there IP does not step on Nvidia,prior art, or the Nvidia is infringing on ATI

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Where's Radeon?

ATI and Nvidia may have a cross licensing agreement for GPU technology, as both would own a lot of fundamental patents.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: Where's Radeon?

I'm sorry, are you suggesting they employed some common sense? Shouldn't they both be prosecuted for that?

That's actually a great example of how the system should work but frequently doesn't.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Where's Radeon?

I don't think nVidia needs to attack ATI/AMD at all. They are in a pretty fair market, with the competition between nVidia and AMD being pretty good - the market bounces between one and the other being the "best" for short periods of time.

Whereas, nVidia don't have a huge share of the mobile GPU market. The barely have a small share to be honest. So nVidia needs to do this in order to stop their competitors unfairly using their IP to beat them at their own game.

Or something like that.

2
1
Silver badge

Re: Where's Radeon?

I'm sorry, are you suggesting they employed some common sense? Shouldn't they both be prosecuted for that?

Cross Licensing is hugely common, AMD license, Intel; Intel license AMD, MS license Apple, Apple License MS. Samsung license "Nokia", Nokia license "Samsung".

It's only when one doesn't cough up that the sue balls start. It's only the IP trolls that don't do this, they want you money for nothing in return.

1
0
Silver badge

Whither Apple?

I heard rumors that the reason Nvidia GPUs were dropped from the Macbook line was because Nvidia went sniffing around Apple demanding they license some GPU patents.

Maybe they did so, or maybe Apple came up with some patents of their own (perhaps CPU patents from one of their acquisitions like P.A. Semi or Intrinsity) that they were able to hold against Nvidia and enter a cross licensing deal.

Since Apple hasn't been sued, they've either reached some sort of agreement, or we can look for the suit against Apple to be announced in the near future.

1
2
Silver badge

Re: Whither Apple?

So why hasn't Sony been sued? Or HTC? Or LG? Why was Samsung singled out? And what about Samsung's claim that it should be taken directly to the companies that make the infringing chips (Qualcomm, etc.)? Samsung are just using the chips like everyone else, after all.

7
1
A J

Re: Whither Apple?

Samsung makes the Exynos chip.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Whither Apple?

> naming all three major competitors to Nvidia's own Tegra tech.

... and there we have it - they want to own the mobile graphics space.

From the patent titles it all looks a bit thin.

I did most of this stuff in a computer graphics and supercomputing classes in the early 1990's. Moving the software to hardware is neither novel nor non-obvious nor is "... on a single platform" an invention, that's expected consolidation.

I suspect the chaps at Hercules who built graphics cards to put pictures on IBM text-only displays (well before nVidia was founded) might be surprised to hear nVidia invented the GPU. I'd be surprised if most micros from the 80's didn't have graphics chips for "lighting up displays."

11
2
Silver badge

Re: Whither Apple?

Why was Samsung singled out?

Samsung makes Exynos and the Mali GPU. So its excuse "that is a suppliers'" problem was beyond disingenious. They are definitely not "using the chips like everyone else".

1
3
Silver badge

Re: Whither Apple?

Samsung may produce the Exynos SoC, but both the CPU and GPU are actually licensed designs from ARM (that includes the Mali, the actual infringing component--it's not unique to Samsung as many ARM SoCs use it). Most of Samsung's tweaking concerning the Exynos is on the CPU end, which isn't being sued. So Samsung could still point fingers: this time at ARM, who made the original GPU design.

6
1
Bronze badge

Re: Whither Apple?

Except with ARM designs you can do whatever you want with it, add stuff, replace stuff or not include anything not required.

1
1
Bronze badge

Re: Whither Apple?

Samsung makes the Exynos chip.

Nope the Eyxnos Chip is just a System on (a) Chip. Analogous to say the CPU in your Beige Box! You would still need some type of GPU... In the case of Samsung either a Malli or PowerVR with which to power the Display. Thus One assumes that this then becomes the "focus" of this Sueball.

FYI: Malli = ARM, and PowerVR are PowerVR, and both have nothing to do with Samsung other then Licensing their "Tech" to Samsung who use it to build their Phablets.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Whither Apple?

"Except with ARM designs you can do whatever you want with it, add stuff, replace stuff or not include anything not required."

But that's not recommended for GPUs because they're already designed (by specialists in the field) to draw every last bit of performance per watt. Omitting some stuff to trade performance for silicon space, maybe, but altering too much stuff means lots of sensitive recoding to make the software work on it. AFAIK, all the SoCs in use today use more or less stock GPU designs like the Mali 400.

Even when it comes to tweaking the CPU, there's still the basic spec to follow in order to maintain compatibility.

1
0
Silver badge

New type of patent: "xxx on a GPU".

I mean, once you have the concept of a GPU, surely the rest simply follows suit or at least is a logical extension/modification of an existing concept.

2
0

If I had a time machine...

...I would go back to the 1980's and patent Patent Trolling.

9
2
Silver badge

Re: If I had a time machine...

NVidia is hardly an NPE like most of the Trolls.

2
0

Re: If I had a time machine...

They may not be an NPE but do you remember a company called 3DFX and what happened to them? Nvidia doesn't deserve to sue anybody about patents.

6
1
Silver badge

Re: If I had a time machine...

As I recall, both sides sued each other. offsetting each other in a patent war. In the end, 3dfx bet on the wrong horse (please direct your attention to the Voodoo5, a card so ungainly it needed its own external power supply to work properly--plus the FANS). People went with ATI and nVidia for more practical reasons, which left 3dfx in the cold and eventually borged by nVidia.

1
2

Re: If I had a time machine...

“...I would go back to the 1980's and patent Patent Trolling.”

… and that patent would have expired at least five years ago :)

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: If I had a time machine...

As I seem to recall... The problem with the Voodoo5, was the fact that in the end it was little more then Vaporware. No doubt the Patent War, and insane Power needed to run it kept its overall development way behind schedule. But, I like many other diehard 3dfx fans at the time desperately wanted that card back then.

I'd dare say that 3dfx were way ahead of the Game already then, trying to make do with the sh--y AGP specs. For as soon as 3dfx went... As they say 'round these Parts "Tits up!". Along comes the PCIe Slot, and the now excepted External Power Supply. And no one has managed to blink even once.

1
0

Re: If I had a time machine...

@ William Gallafent

True, but I could revise the patent just before it expired with New and Improved Patent Trolling. It's a lot like regular Patent Trolling, but with more lawyers.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: If I had a time machine...

Except that it would only cover you for the New and Improved design. The old design would still be open season, and anyone you tried to sue can just wave the expired patent in your face.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: If I had a time machine...

As I recall, 3dfx barely missed the turn of the millennium when nVidia borged them, and the PCI Express standard didn't come out until 2004. That's a pretty lengthy interval for "as soon as". As you mentioned, 3dfx was too ambitious. They lost the plot. Not only did they misfire catering to the hardcore set, they lost the more mainstream buyers.

Though I should note that an external power hookup from the PSU developed independently of PCI Express. I actually own a broken ATI All-in-Wonder AGP card that took an external power feed, either from a floppy-style connector or from the connectors we now associate with PCI Express Power.

0
0
Bronze badge

Sue whichever company has the most money

"Samsung repeatedly said that this was mostly their suppliers' problem,"

Unfortunately their suppliers don't have nearly as much money.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Yes... And no...

While some people state, and probably accurately, that they are going after their direct competitors, I would also note that the article states that Nvidia is pursuing this because of a failure on the part of these entities to engage in a patent licensing scheme. I would imagine that part of the reason why Nvidia hasn't had a patent lawsuit in all this time is that most companies probably are already engaged in licensing agreements for their technologies.

0
0
Silver badge

How quaint...

Qualcom which is the ultimate example of a "house of lawyers" with a small engineering detachment is being nailed on IPR. How quaint...

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Where is the Apple angle then?

Don't all lawsuits of this type inevitably lead back to Apple?

If not when are NVidia going to sue Apple? I must be prepared to short my stock

0
0

Well, that's one way to get a cross-license...

for competitive mobile modem tech.. Blast 'em with graphics patents and see what sticks..

Didn't Qualcomm buy graphics IP from AMD?

0
1

Maybe my memory is poor

But I seem to remember programmable shaders and GPUs long before nvidia had them (and I was using their products back in the TNT days)

Of course the patent people don't actually bother to look and see if Prior Art actually exists (because they don't understand what they are issuing patents for)

3
1
Silver badge

Re: Maybe my memory is poor

"Of course the patent people don't actually bother to look and see if Prior Art actually exists (because they don't understand what they are issuing patents for)"

It's worse than that. They only get paid for approved patents, so it's not in their interest to decline them.

2
0

Integration is banned

The integration of 3D graphics processing functions, something which used to take a large circuit board, into a single chip was something that was going to happen, whether NVidia or some other company. It's a natural evolution of technology. The idea that they can patent it and stop other manufacturers from reducing their designs from say a 100 chip solution to a one chip solution is farcical. Might as well tell the entire world wide electronics industry "You can't integrate your logic onto a single chip, you have to stick with your existing architecture comprising multiple chips".

2
1
Silver badge

Re: Integration is banned

"The integration of 3D graphics processing functions, something which used to take a large circuit board, into a single chip was something that was going to happen, whether NVidia or some other company."

Indeed, the integration of XYZ functions into a single chip has much provable prior art, dating back to 1980s microcomputers and beyond.

0
0
Silver badge

Where does liability stop?

Intersting point here. If Samsung buys chips from Qualcomm in good faith and without knowing about the internals beyond the published literature, and if Qualcomm is allegedly infringing an NVidia patent within that chip, does that make Samsung liable? Especially, liable going back in time to before the allegation was even made?

If so, I'm slightly surprised that any large company is willing to buy VLSI subsystems from a small(er) company, and that patents haven't yet caused all progress on the hardware front to cease!

2
1
Bronze badge

Indeed...

the USPTO will have sanctioned an AMD/Nvidia GPU Duopoly.

That is how the bullshit USPTO patent system works.

0
0

Only reason being:

Tegra can't compete, Nvidia decides to sue.

1
0

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon