NVIDIA are one of the graphics processing world’s more prominent and important manufacturers. The company is in the business of making graphics processor units, or GPUs, for a number of different products such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. The company has also invested into building System-on-Chips, such as the Tegra family of mobile processors, and also manufacturers the SHIELD portable console and the Android-powered SHIELD Tablet range. Samsung are the world’ largest manufacturer of Android-based smartphones and tablets but also have a large portfolio of other electronics products; they are no stranger to patent infringement court cases, even away from the headline-making Apple versus Samsung court cases. However, whereas Apple sued Samsung, in today’s story, Samsung were attempting to sue NVIDIA in a case lodged just last November, where the South Korean business accused NVIDIA of infringing four patents. At the end of last week, a federal jury trial found NVIDIA not guilty of infringing a Samsung-held patent.
This particular case concerns the memory chips attached to processor and memory cards: NVIDIA’s graphics cards depend on the memory attached to them and these chips are manufactured by a number of different companies around the world, including Samsung. Of the four original patents, Samsung dropped one case (perhaps because NVIDIA and Samsung settled out of court) and a judge ruled that two others should be dismissed because of a mistrial. NVIDIA spokesman, Hector Marinez, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this case, which reflects the jury’s careful attention to the facts and the law that applied.”
However, whilst the case concerns RAM chips, the roots of the case are found after licensing talks failed between NVIDIA and a number of competitors, including Qualcomm and Samsung, over the mobile GPU market. NVIDIA has been working hard to force competitors to pay licensing fees for what it claims are the unique products that it developed, onboard mobile GPU chips. However, NVIDIA’s mobile GPU technology is reliant on associated memory chips, which Samsung argues is its own invention. NVIDIA lost a ITC case against Samsung, and a judge ruled that the GPU specialist business also infringed three Samsung patents in December 2015. NVIDIA is challenging these decisions, so it appears that unfortunately whilst this particular case appears to have been resolved, there are still ongoing conflicts between the major technology businesses of the world.