A Chaotic War of Patents: The Nvidia – Samsung Conflict

All-out wars are common in the mobile industry. There is a battle for innovation; a battle for resources; and then there is this lengthy battle for patent rights. Surely, you have heard of the epic Apple – Samsung patent battle before, and how messy it was. Today’s article will focus on how the whole conflict between Nvidia and Samsung started, developed, and expectations for the future. It all started in September 2014 when Nvidia sued Samsung & Qualcomm alleging that the two companies infringed on various Nvidia patents.

The patents in question are related to the following issues:

  • Redendering Pipeline
  • Single semiconductor graphics platform system and method with skinning, swizzling and masking capabilities
  • Method and apparatus for multithreaded processing of data in a programmable graphics processor
  • Transform, lighting and rasterization system embodied on a single semiconductor platform
  • Programmable graphics processor for multithreaded execution of programs
  • System, method and article of manufacture for a programmable vertex processing model with instruction set
  • System, method and article of manufacture for shadow mapping

Nvidia claimed that Samsung’s devices & Qualcomm’s chip designs are taking advantage of the above Nvidia patented technological advances. On November 2014, Samsung attempted to get back at Nvidia by filing their own complaint with the ITC (International Trade Commission). This time, Samsung accused Nvidia for infringing on Samsung patents, specifically targeting Nvidia’s Tegra tablets. However, taking the issue away from the ITC, Samsung takes the battle to an Eastern Virgina District Court to sue Nvidia and its local partner Velocity Micro.

After accusing Nvidia of infringing on eight Samsung patents, Nvidia counter-sued Samsung accusing them of infringing on their technology. In fact, this case has been dated to undergo trial on January 11, 2016. Interestingly, Nvidia silently removed several parts from its ITC case that was filed against Samsung & Qualcomm. This is thought to be due to their fear of having their patents critically inspected by the courts. In fact, what Nvidia started is a big mess that will affect them badly and in a war of patents, there are no winners.

Badly enough, Nvidia loses the patent war against Samsung & Qualcomm on Ocober 2015. An ITC Judge came out in favor of Samsung & Qualcomm due to the lack of evidence of infringement on Nvidia technology. Nvidia, disappointed, insisted that the case be reconsidered by the ITC Commission. Yet, the ruling remained the same and since then Nvidia has been attempting to appeal the ruling.

Then, on December 22, 2015; Samsung’s own accusations against Nvidia have turned out to be valid by the ITC. An ITC Judge ruled in favor of Samsung’s counter accusation against Nvidia. This has left Nvidia losing on two ends in an unnecessary war that they have started. It doesn’t seem that Nvidia will remain silent over this and will continue to appeal the rulings. There is not much logic behind such a war. Nvidia didn’t have to start the war against Samsung & Qualcomm because, you see, patents are open to interpretation. Patenting is important of and within itself, but generalizing a patented idea to prevent others from innovation is plain madness because the same can be done against your own inventions. Having said that, Samsung should not push with their accusations against Nvidia and try to end the conflict outside court.

The truth is that technology is the result of human development and no company started from zero, they all have either, used or were inspired by an already existing idea. On a final note, we love products from both, Nvidia and Samsung. They are both wonderful companies and we would love to see them working together rather than fighting against each other. So do not dig a hole for your neighbor, you might end up being the one falling into it.