The U.S. International Trade Commission has voted to investigate a patent infringement complaint by South Korea-based Samsung Electronics against Nvidia and a number of other manufacturers of computer systems, graphics processing chips and related components. The complaint follows similar allegations made in September by Nvidia against Samsung and Qualcomm.
The latest decision by the ITC means both sides' complaints are now under investigation by the regulatory agency. The dispute centers on "certain graphics processing chips, systems on a chip, graphics carts, computing boards, graphics boards, accelerator cards and modules, and processor modules and products containing the same."
The ITC's decision to investigate does not reflect any stance on the merits of the case, the agency said. It said investigators will make a final determination "at the earliest practicable time," with a target date for completion of the investigation to be set within 45 days.
Nvidia's First-Ever Patent Suit
When it filed its complaint with the ITC in September, Nvidia also initiated a patent lawsuit against Samsung and Qualcomm in U.S. District Court in Delaware. The action marked the Santa Clara, California-based company's first patent lawsuit in its 21-year history.
Nvidia alleges that Samsung's Galaxy smartphones and tablets -- built with graphics architectures using Qualcomm's Adreno, ARM's Mali or Imagination's PowerVR -- infringes upon its patented GPU technology. Nvidia says its licensing team had tried without success to negotiate a patent portfolio license with Samsung.
"We have spent more than $9 billion in R&D since 1993," said Nvidia Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer David Shannon, writing in a company blog post Sept. 4. "Without licensing Nvidia's patented GPU technology, Samsung and Qualcomm have chosen to deploy our IP without proper compensation to us. This is inconsistent with our strategy to earn an appropriate return on our investment."
'Legal Ping Pong'
In its filing with the ITC, Nvidia is requesting an exclusion order and a cease-and-desist order that would prevent the importation of the devices it deems to be infringing upon its patents. However, the ITC cannot award monetary damages related to complaints; such damages would have to be decided in U.S. District Court.
Writing in a blog post on Nvidia's Web site on Tuesday, Shannon called Samsung's counter-complaint against Nvidia "typical legal ping pong." He also criticized Samsung's decision to include several small companies that work with Nvidia in its ITC complaint.
"Samsung's cynical measure to blame our partners is unfair to these third parties and will create more negative fallout for the company," Shannon wrote. "In the case of Velocity Micro, a small family business was named so that Samsung could attempt to get its case heard in the fast-moving local district court."
Samsung refused to comment on its filing.