The U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday cleared Samsung and Qualcomm of violating a pair of Nvidia graphics patents in a case that could have barred certain Samsung products from the U.S. market, upholding an administrative law judge's decision and ending its investigation of the Korean smartphone giant.
The commission rejected Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia Corp.'s request to review its claims that the firms infringed its patents related to graphics processing technology used to power visual effects on smartphone and tablet screens, saying it stood by an administrative law judge’s October final initial determination concluding that neither company flouted Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.
“We remain firm in our belief that our patents are valid and have been infringed,” Nvidia said in a blog post Monday, adding that it will look to appeal the ITC’s decision.
Nvidia initially filed its complaint in September 2014, accusing Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. of violating patents for graphics processors it says it invented, asking the court to block shipments of allegedly infringing devices. The chipmaker also sued the companies in Delaware federal court, seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against infringement.
According to court documents, Nvidia allegedly tried in vain to reach a licensing deal with Samsung over a two-year period, accusing Samsung of employing various delay tactics, including foisting the blame for the issue onto its suppliers. Samsung previously argued that only the Delaware court should rule on the dispute, claiming Nvidia was using the ITC investigation as leverage in its negotiations.
After the ITC launched a probe in October 2014, Judge Thomas Pender determined Samsung did not infringe on two out of three Nvidia patents and found the third patent was too obvious to be valid. He recommended in November that the commission should order the limited exclusion of specific Samsung products from the U.S. market if the ITC should disagree with his ruling.
Advocacy group Public Knowledge shot back in public comments filed with the commission, urging the ITC not to bar imports of Samsung phones if it overturned Judge Pender’s decision, saying such a ban would threaten public safety by jeopardizing health care services, public participation, and essential communication in rural areas across the U.S. where people rely on mobile phones for Internet access.
The Samsung products named in the ITC suit include the Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy S5 phones and the Galaxy Tab S and Galaxy Note Pro tablets. Most use Qualcomm’s Adreno graphics processing units, but some use Samsung chips made with ARM Holdings PLC’s Mali GPU or Imagination Technologies Group PLC’s PowerVR GPU, court documents show.
"We are very pleased that the ITC came to the right and just conclusion that we did nothing wrong,” a Samsung representative told Law360 in an email Tuesday. A representative for Qualcomm said the company is satisfied with the commission’s decision.
Counsel for the parties did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Nvidia Corp. is represented by Denise M. Mingrone and I. Neel Chatterjee of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
Qualcomm Inc. is represented by Christa Anderson and Robert Van Nest of Keker & Van Nest, Richard Zembek and Eric Hall of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP and Deanna Tanner Okun and Tom Schaumberg of Adduci Mastriani & Schaumberg LLP.
Samsung is represented by Edward C. Donovan and D. Sean Trainor of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Consumer Electronics and Display Devices with Graphics Processing and Graphics Processing Units Therein, investigation number 337-TA-932, at the U.S. International Trade Commission.