After graphics chip maker NVIDIA met with what could generously be called lukewarm success in the mobile space, they began scaling back deployment of their Tegra processors, featured in their SHIELD devices and the Google Pixel C at the moment, and instead began pursuing royalties from their patents. NVIDIA claims that a number of their patents in both the mobile and desktop spaces have been used by others without paying. A little bigger and mightier than the average patent troll, NVIDIA looked to this strategy as a decent replacement for lost ground in the mobile space. To that end, NVIDIA opened up licensing talks with a few OEMs, most of which fell through. After filing a claim against Samsung in that vein last year, it seems Samsung has turned the tables. Now, NVIDIA finds themselves in hot water after U.S. trade judge David Shaw declared them to be infringing upon three of Samsung's graphics chip patents yesterday. According to a press release from the International Trade Commission, a full public release stating how the patents were infringed should be available within 30 days.
In reaction to Samsung drawing first blood in the legal battle over these three patents, NVIDIA's comment, issued by spokesman Hector Martinez, depicts hope for the future of the case. "We are disappointed," he says, "We look forward to seeking review by the full ITC which will decide this case several months from now." For the time being, only an initial decision has been issued. No injunction or damages have been sought just yet, but when the case goes for full review by the commission and a final declaration, those are distinct possibilities, although NVIDIA seems to hope that at that point, the case will likely be dropped. NVIDIA still plans to appeal the ITC's December 14 decision that none of NVIDIA's patents were infringed.
The three patents at hand pertain to processes used to make the graphics chips. Samsung says that these patents' contents allow chip designers to put "what used to fill an entire circuit board with dozens of discrete components all onto a single chip the size of your thumbnail." NVIDIA's lawyers, on the other hand, argue that the patents shown are only applicable to old technology and are no longer in use. According to them, Samsung has flipped the script and become the patent troll, since they have "chosen three patents that have been sitting on the shelf for years collecting nothing but dust." One of the patents would expire next year, not long after any import and sale bans would take effect. Trade agency staff are advising that NVIDIA should be found in violation of two of the patents, one of them being that one.