Monday, March 4, 2013

HTC subsidiary claims Qualcomm's Snapdragon infringes one of its video processing patents

In addition to countersuing Nokia in two German venues over a power-saving patent, the Taiwanese wireless device maker is also striking back at its Finnish counterpart through a complaint its subsidiary S3 Graphics filed with the Mannheim Regional Court on July 18, 2012. The case number is 7 O 182/12, indicating that Judge Andreas Voss ("Voß" in German) is presiding over this case.

The patent-in-suit is EP0797181 on "hardware assist for YUV data format conversion to software MPEG decoder". This is the European equivalent of U.S. Patent No. 6,353,440. It was asserted against Apple through an October 14, 2011 amendment to S3 Graphics' second ITC complaint against Apple, which never came to judgment because of a settlement. Since the settlement with Apple, HTC's biggest patent worry is Nokia's ongoing enforcement campaign over more than 30 different patents.

What makes the German S3 Graphics v. Nokia lawsuit particularly interesting is the fact that the infringement allegation is (for the most part or even entirely) related to the video processing functionality of Qualcomm's multifunctional Snapdragon chip (official product website, Wikipedia entry), which is highly popular.

Both Nokia and S3 Graphics ("S3G") filed discovery requests with the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, in whose district Qualcomm is headquartered. S3G filed its request together with its parent company, HTC, whose German lawsuits against Nokia over a power-saving patent also involve Qualcomm chips (as well as Broadcom chips).

The HTC-S3G motion says the following:

"In its suit, S3G claims that certain Nokia smartphones infringe the '181 Patent. In particular, S3G claims that Lumia smartphones sold in Germany by Nokia GmbH infringe the Patent, due, among other things, to their inclusion of Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets that, when used to process video data in the accused phones, infringe the '181 Patent."

"In general terms, these [discovery] requests seek documents relating to the video data processing functionality of the Qualcomm MSM8960, APQ8055, MSM8255, and MSM7227A chipsets, each of which are present in particular Lumia model smartphones that are accused of infringement. More specifically, the Applicants seek to identify the hardware that is involved in the conversion of video data from one format, the 'Planar YUV Format,' to another format, the 'Pixel Video Format.'"

S3G attached a declaration by its German counsel, Peter-Michael Weisse of the Wildanger firm. which describes the infringement contentions and the role of the Snapdragon chip in them as follows:

"4. The S3G Action concerns S3 Graphics' European Patent No. 0 797 181, entitled 'Hardware assist for YUV data format conversion to software MPEG decoder' ('the 181 Patent'). The invention disclosed in the 181 Patent relates to a display controller involved in the format conversion of video data. The display controller relieves the burden on a host CPU by decoding video data (referred to as YUV data) into displayable format.


6. In the S3G Action, smartphones in Nokia's Lumia series with Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets are accused of infringing the 181 Patent because they include display controllers as described in paragraph 4 above. Accordingly, S3 Graphics seeks from Qualcomm technical documents relating to the capability of the display controller in specified Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets to process video data, and the route (or 'pipeline') by which video data is conveyed in those chipsets. The documents sought are expected to further support S3 Graphics' case that the accused smartphones infringe the 181 Patent."

All claims of the asserted patent relate to display controllers. The claims also involve communication between a claimed display controller and the memory of a device over the data bus.

I'm not yet aware of a trial date in this case, but given the usual time lines of Mannheim patent infringement cases, it will probably be held in a matter of months.

If you'd like to be updated on the smartphone patent disputes and other intellectual property matters I cover, please subscribe to my RSS feed (in the right-hand column) and/or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents and Google+.

Share with other professionals via LinkedIn: