Published in Editorials

Samsung and NVIDIA are throwing vague patents around inside a broken system...

by on24 November 2014 5372 times

The US patent system is broken. There is not really much more to say about that it is and has been broken for many years and probably will continue to be broken for many years to come. Now why am I bringing this up? Well in looking over the way patents are filed, processed, and approved you will find that there are a large number of patents that are essentially the same thing just with a little twist. This type of patent allows for someone to put a legal hold on a very broad concept and then comeback and sue someone at a later date. Over the last few years we have watched a number of companies work the system with this type of patent and worse.

In the latest litigation over competition case we see NVIDIA and Samsung going at it head to head with a group of patents that cover different technologies. On the NVIDIA side they claim that Samsung by using Qualcomm's Adreno, Imagination's PowerVR, or ARM's Mali graphics architectures they are willfully infringing on patents held. These patents cover some broad ideas including parallel processing, unified shaders, and programmable shaders. Sounds legit right? Well the problem is that NVIDIA has not really been all that specific about what parts of these designs violate their patents. There is also the question of why NVIDIA is only targeting Samsung and not every other smartphone maker using these technologies.

The leading belief is that NVIDIA is looking to hobble their main competitor in the US. So far NVIDIA’s Tegra has not done that well in the market forcing NVIDIA to launch their own products in the form of the Shield Gaming device and Shield Tablet. These have received a lukewarm reception by people buying tablets despite getting good reviews. It is almost a desperation move on the part of NVIDIA and one that we suspect they are not trying to “win”, but would like a settlement from Samsung in the form of cooperation (along with some money too).

Samsung, is not taking this lying down though. They have gone through their patent list and pulled out a couple that they can throw at NVIDIA. One of the big ones covers the way computer systems buffer data. This is an overly vague patent that you could probably apply to many things on the market today. Still it gives Samsung a horse in the race to push back on the NVIDIA claims. Both companies have asked for bans on the competitor’s “infringing” products from the ITC and have filed separate suits to reinforce the point.

In looking over the complaints it is not likely that either company will get a ban from the ITC. The patents in question and the facts in the case simply do not merit it. NIVIDIA has not proof of specific harm done to them by Samsung’s use of competing technology. Their (NVIDIA’s) troubles go way back to shortcomings in their product design and a lack of design wins. Samsung’s patent is too broad to point to any real harm so this one will likely shift to the court system where anything can happen depending on the judge in the case. Normally I would say that this will be interesting to watch, but to be honest this one is rather boring. NVIDIA’s claims are limited and Samsung’s response was predictable and kind of lame. In the end the only people that are really going to “win” are the lawyers that are getting paid piles of cash to play the system.

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Last modified on 24 November 2014
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