back to article Imagination and Apple, sitting in a tree, l-i-c-e-n-s-i-n-g GPU tech semi-secretly: Brit chip designer strikes iGiant deal

UK-based graphics chip designer Imagination Technologies has inked a new licensing deal with Apple. In a very brief announcement on Thursday, Imagination confirmed it had struck an agreement to replace the one Apple had abruptly cancelled in 2017. "[Imagination] has replaced the multi-year, multi-use license agreement with …

  1. IGotOut

    Shhhh...don't tell Trump and Bob...

    they are Chinese owned. They have enough issues of paranoia and protectionism to deal with as it is.

  2. Snowy Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Two and a half years ago I wrote

    [quote]Call the IP lawyer.

    If designing a GPU from scratch is so easy why it intel's so poor.

    Even if you do design your own GPU you're going to still need to use a lot of other companies patents.

    Looks more like they saw how badly the company depended on them. Then decided to drive the price down and pick it up for a song.[/quote]

    Them getting rescued was not part of the plan but I do wonder if they are paying less to get hold of more...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Two and a half years ago I wrote

      Imagination had offered themselves up for sale to Apple back then but they weren't interested, at least not at whatever price was being asked.

      I figure either Imagination's new deep pocketed owners were going to sue (there were rumors that was going to happen soon) over patents so they are licensing just patents, or the new generation GPU design Imagination announced recently performs better than Apple's internally designed GPU so they are licensing the design. We'll probably never know for sure, unless the Metal APIs for future Apple SoCs include something that makes licensing the new generation of Imagination cores obvious.

      While GPU design is a patent minefield, everyone else designing GPUs also does some CPU designs as well and Apple has a huge patent warchest there. So AMD, Nvidia, Intel or ARM couldn't sue Apple over GPU patents because Apple would be able to countersue over CPU patents and a cross licensing deal would result, like they always do when two companies with big bunches of patents the other uses go after one another.

      I think Apple may already have a cross licensing deal with Intel, though I'm not sure - they license each other's "IP" but who knows how broad that agreement really is. And of course they have an architectural license from ARM, which would obviously include a patent cross license deal at least for CPUs. Not sure whether it would include GPUs, but ARM isn't likely to go suing one of their biggest customers anyway.

      Imagination is really the only major GPU player that doesn't also do CPUs, and thus the only one who could hold Apple's feet to the fire with a patent lawsuit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two and a half years ago I wrote

        "Imagination is really the only major GPU player that doesn't also do CPUs, and thus the only one who could hold Apple's feet to the fire with a patent lawsuit."

        They used to have MIPS but had to sell them off seperately as selling MIPS would be subject to US oversight and could cause problems due to the Chinese buyer of IMG (though, paradoxically, MIPS actually already had a design centre in China!)

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Two and a half years ago I wrote

      "If designing a GPU from scratch is so easy why it intel's so poor." You gave the reason for that in your next sentence: "Even if you do design your own GPU you're going to still need to use a lot of other companies patents."

      I think there are only a couple of GPU patents that are actually worthwhile in the sense they were not obvious but I have a feeling AI will producing speedups to make people eyes water soon - see the 3 body problem 'solution' recently. Admittedly the data required for this may only be available to large firms at the moment but it would be great if we could get a Risc-V type approach to GPU design with some open source data sets. Patents just slow everyone down.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Two and a half years ago I wrote

        Patents are both a good and bad idea.

        Good that they protect new ideas which should drive innovation. With the right licensing allowing others to build on your patent and have even better things possible :)

        The bad some patents are way to broad and/or for something that is obvious. Then rather than being used to protect innovation they are used to stop others from competing.

        Also enforcement of them is very much down to how deep your pockets are which is to my mind the very opposite of the reason for patents. Which should be to protect companies from having their ideas stolen by other companies with either. Also with how quickly things become obsolete is 20 years to long for some things?

        What would be nice is a better way for patents to be licensed which would allow the patent to be protected but also not stop innovation.

        Pint for the one who can fix Patents :)

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Two and a half years ago I wrote

          That's a safe pint!

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

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020