AMD has won a round in its legal battle against makers of TVs at the United States International Trade Commission (US ITC). The Commission found that Vizio and Sigma Designs have infringed one of AMD’s patents covering fundamental aspects of modern GPUs. The ITC ordered to cease imports of some of Vizio TVs to the U.S.

Back in early 2017, AMD filed a lawsuit with the US ITC against LG, MediaTek, Sigma Designs, and Vizio. The plaintiff accused the defendants of infringing three patents covering fundamental aspects of contemporary graphics processing, such unified shaders (‘133), parallel pipeline graphics system (‘506), as well as a graphics processing architecture employing unified shaders (‘454). Furthermore, the complaint referenced an in-progress patent application covering GPU architectures with unified shaders (‘967) and accused two of the said companies of infringing it as well. Meanwhile all the defendants license (or licensed) their GPU technologies from ARM and Imagination Technologies (though, as we reported back in early 2017, it looks like AMD only accuses SoCs based on ARM’s architecture of infringing its patents).

Eventually, LG settled with AMD out of court. Meanwhile, MediaTek, Sigma Designs, and Vizio are still parts of the US ITC investigation. This week the Commission found that certain Vizio-branded TVs based on Sigma's SoCs infringe claims 1-5 and 8 of AMD's ’506 patent that covers a parallel pipeline graphics system.

The ITC notice does not disclose which products infringe AMD's patent, nor does it list the TVs now barred from the U.S. Keeping in mind that Vizio used certain SoCs from Sigma Designs, which is about to be liquidated, it is unlikely that TVs in question are current, new models. Unfortunately, due to lack of details, it is unclear how important the win is for AMD and what are possible implications for the parties involved. Meanwhile, after issuing a cease and desist order, ITC terminated the investigation, but did not order defendants to pay any remedies.

The List of AMD's Patents Allegedly Infringed by Defendants
Patent Name Abstract Description Asserted Claims Filing Date Infringing
IC Products*
7,633,506 Parallel pipeline graphics system The parallel pipeline graphics system includes a back-end configured to receive primitives and combinations of primitives (i.e., geometry) and process the geometry to produce values to place in a frame buffer for rendering on screen. 1-9 November 26, 2003 MediaTek Helio P10

7,796,133 Unified shader A unified shader unit used in texture processing in graphics processing device. Unlike the conventional method of using one shader for texture coordinate shading and another for color shading, the present shader performs both operations. 1-13 and 40 December 8, 2003
8,760,454 Graphics processing architecture employing a unified shader A GPU that uses unified shaders 2 - 11 May 17, 2011 MediaTek Helio P10
Patent Application 14/614,967 1-8 June 27, 2016
*The list of infringing products is not limited to two ICs.

Related Reading:

Sources: ITC, Seeking Alpha, Bloomberg

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  • mitcoes - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    What I do not understand is why they - AMD - do not sue Imagination and ARM.
    And Vizio Mediatek and Sigma designs should sue them - Imagination and ARM - too for licencing IP that is not owned by them.

    Or am I lost in translation?
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    I read once that it was easier to sue someone who actually produces things that are sold to the common consumer. So they go after the people who implement infringing technology into their products, rather than go after the people who think up the infringing technology. Of course, Vizio and the like will likely turn around to their supplier and demand compensation. But that sort of news is not public facing.
  • wintermute000 - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    Surely if it's ARM SOCs then the massive smartphone market is affected, or why do the patents only affect Smart TVs?
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, August 26, 2018 - link

    Maybe there are already licensing deals in place for the much more mature smartphone and tablet market and their manufacturers. And the smart TV market is newer with the players in it younger and not into the licensing game so far.
  • jabbadap - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    I'm a bit baffled by that too. Mediatek Helio P10 has arm Mali-T860 MP2 gpu(i.e. Samsung Exynos uses mali gpu). Or maybe it just that when arm does not make any of those them selves, it's up-to SOC maker to get proper IP licenses from different IP holders.
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    This. I imagine there's a lot of companies that license from GPU patent holders, either directly or indirectly. Mediatek obviously does not take care of any of this, and just leaves it up to the manufacturers. That doesn't mean the situation is the same for Qualcomm or Samsung SoCs.
  • Outlander_04 - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    Have you considered AMDs next step is to start negotiating directly with ARM for royalty payments for the tech it seems to have borrowed ?
  • Reflex - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    ARM does not make a product. Nothing illegal with selling a design that incorporates other IP so long as you do not represent yourself as the owner of that IP.
  • BurntMyBacon - Monday, August 27, 2018 - link

    True. ARM has no requirement to negotiate with AMD. That doesn't mean there is no merit in negotiating, though. It is possible that AMD can convince ARM that there is value to be had in licensing their IP. For instance, AMD and ARM could settle on a cost for a transferable license. ARM could then use the fact that the customer no longer needs to get a separate license (and other improvements made during that cycle) to justify a higher price on their IP. Also, depending on how the deal is struck, ARM could end up well ahead here. As an example, if AMD were to charge a flat fee or a fee that grew less quickly with quantity than ARM licensing model, then there would be a quantity of sales beyond which ARM would be making a profit on the license. ARM could raise or lower their licensing fee based on where they want that crossover to be.
  • Reflex - Monday, August 27, 2018 - link

    There really is no motivation for ARM to license, however. ARM sells designs into markets that do not care about AMD or anyone else's IP (China for instance), having to pay a global license that would only benefit a portion of ARM's customers is bad business. It is a better deal for both ARM and the customers who don't sell in the west to just let those who need a license to acquire a license and those who do not, avoid it.

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