AMD's daring new money-making strategy: Sue everyone! Mwahaha

Time to put these ol' ATI patents to use, mini-Chipzilla chuckles

Advanced Micro Devices has accused a handful of companies of infringing patents it holds on graphics processor technology.

The beleaguered designer of CPUs and GPUs claims that LG, Vizio, MediaTek and Sigma Designs have ripped off three rather generic-looking patents it has owned since it acquired ATI in 2006. AMD wants the United States International Trade Commission to investigate [PDF] its allegations, and ban the four from importing, selling and marketing any products that infringe the chip architect's designs.

As well as dobbing the four into the commission, AMD has also launched civil lawsuits demanding damages and its legal bills paid: the Zen processor biz has sued LG [PDF], Vizio [PDF], and Sigma [PDF] in the Delaware US District Court, alleging patent infringement. It appears AMD hasn't yet dragged MediaTek into court.

Two of the patents at the heart of this legal war were applied for in 2003 by ATI, and were granted several years later after AMD gobbled up the GPU outfit, while the third was applied for in 2011 after the merger. The three US patents describe general graphics processor operations, and they are:

  • 7,633,506: Parallel pipeline graphics processing, granted in 2009. It defines a processor "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 eventual rendering on a screen. In one embodiment, the graphics system includes two parallel pipelines."
  • 7,796,133: Unified shader for processing and displaying textures, granted in 2010.
  • 8,760,454: Graphics processing architecture and unified shader, granted in 2014. It describes "a graphics processor that employs a unified shader that is capable of performing both the vertex operations and the pixel operations in a space saving and computationally efficient manner."

All three, to El Reg, sound like technical descriptions for all modern GPUs. AMD reckons TVs, phones, gadgets and chips produced by the aforementioned four corporations are using its technology without permission – and, crucially, without any royalty checks being cut.

"These common infringing graphics systems are generally available for purchase on the open market in the form of smartphones, tablets, smart watches, televisions, graphics processors, integrated circuits, and consumer products containing such components and systems," AMD says in its complaint to the trade commission, filed at the end of January.

How much does AMD expect from its legal clash? While AMD does not say precisely how much it makes from licensing its technology, its intellectual property business is part of its larger Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom unit that turned a $283m profit from $2.3bn in sales last year. That was the rare bright spot in what has been an otherwise dismal financial year in which the Intel antitrust shield managed to lose $481m.

No spokespeople for AMD, LG, MediaTek, Sigma, nor Vizio were available for immediate comment. ®

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