Towards the end of last year, NVIDIA filed suit against both Qualcomm and Samsung for patent infringement relating to GPU technologies. A GPU is a Graphics Processing Unit, and when talking about Samsung and their Exynos line you might have heard of either the PowerVR or Mali GPU chips. Meanwhile, on the Qualcomm side of things, they have their own Adreno GPU designs. NVIDIA had filed against the two companies under grounds of infringement on technologies such as programmable shaders, unified shaders and multithreaded parallel processing. In a recent pretrial hearing at the International Trade Commission, it looks like NVIDIA have more of a case than we originally thought.
Essentially, this pretrial hearing was all about claim construction, and whether or not NVIDIA actually had a case to bring against Qualcomm and Samsung. In the hearing, NVIDIA reports that six of the seven patents at question were given favorable claim construction to NVIDIA. These are often called a Markman hearing and in this particular case, the Markman hearing has worked out very well for NVIDIA, giving them much-needed ammunition when this all goes to court. In a nutshell, NVIDIA's case will now be looked upon more seriously by a judge and make things that much tougher in court for Samsung and Qualcomm. Even ARM, the designer for all mobile chips used in these designs has weighed in on the dispute.
You might be thinking that this sort of thing is typical of a large company like NVIDIA, but in a blog post recently they were more than happy to say that in their 22-year history the company has never raised a patent issue like this before. Things are set to get ugly in court later this year, as these patents are basically essential for a lot of things we take for granted on our smartphones and tablets. It's not exciting stuff, but it does make you think about just what goes into making our smartphones and tablets quite so fast. In the coming months, we should hear more about these three clashing in court.