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AMD claims ownership of S3 Graphics patents that HTC aimed at Apple

Daniel Eran Dilger

AMD, which became a significant component vendor to Apple when it acquired graphics chipmaker ATI, has claimed ownership of the S3 graphics patents that prompted HTC to buy S3 in order to bring patent litigation against Apple.
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AMD filed a motion with the US International Trade Commission proposing that it dismiss the S3 case against Apple because “the patents-in-suit allegedly belong to ATI rather than S3G — and ATI has no intention of suing Apple over them,” notes FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller.

ATI outlined a detailed history of the ownership of the graphics patents in question, and “believes to have acquired them years ago regardless of whatever the assignment database of the patent office may say,” Mueller reports.

US patent owners can sell their rights without registering the ownership change to the patent office, he stated, resulting in a situation where the owner listed in the patent office’s database is no longer correct.

$300 million for patents S3 didn’t even own?

Taiwanese Android licensee HTC acquired S3, a Fremont, California image compression technology firm, for $300 million in an effort to give the smartphone maker leverage against iPhone patent infringement claims brought against it by Apple.

HTC then petitioned the ITC to block all US imports of Apple’s Macs, iPhone and iPads as a bargaining chip after the ITC ruled that HTC’s Android phones infringed two Apple patents. The ITC is also evaluating a complaint Apple brought against HTC’s Flyer tablet, pictured below.

Apple’s patent claims in its suit with HTC appear to cover core technologies in Android, rather than relating to features that HTC could disable to avoid infringement.

In addition to buying S3 for patent litigation leverage, HTC also publicly complained that it is “disappointed at Apple’s constant attempts at litigations instead of competing fairly in the market.”

HTC also announced that it was “open to having discussions” with Apple while at the same time reiterating that it “strongly denies all infringement claims by Apple in the past and present and reiterates our determination and commitment to protect our intellectual property rights.”

Google has since assigned HTC ownership of patents it recently acquired, and HTC has used these in file a series of new complaints against Apple.

Suing for injunctions vs licensing

An ITC judge ruled in July that the S3 patents HTC acquired are not being infringed by Apple’s iOS products, while noting that Macs did infringe upon the patents, allowing HTC the weaker option of demanding patent concessions from Apple in exchange for allowing it to continue to import Macs into the US.

If the S3 patents are actually owned by AMD however, HTC will lose that final bargaining tactic, as AMD has no interest in helping HTC attack its client.

HTC has separately agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for Android products that infringe its patents, something that Samsung and a variety of other Android licensees have similarly opted to do to avoid litigation.

However, Apple doesn’t appear to be interested in licensing its iPhone patents to Android users, and is instead seeking injunctions against a series of Android products in a variety of jurisdictions worldwide.

Apple’s litigation goal therefore appear similar to Oracle, which has also clearly indicated that it intends to block Android as an infringing product, rather than preferring to simply gain royalty income from its adopters.

5 comments

1 spuy767 { 09.30.11 at 4:15 pm }

Obviously the new modus of agile tech companies is to out-litigate their competition.

2 The Mad Hatter { 09.30.11 at 6:45 pm }

Ah, but look where this came from. I did a study of Florian’s accuracy once. The man is a disaster.

So I checked the AMD website. There is no statement from AMD. I searched for other articles about this. Every single one leads back to Florian. And he didn’t bother to provide a link. Curious that.

Unless there is evidence from someone else that this happened, I won’t believe it.

Wayne

3 jacs { 10.01.11 at 8:37 am }

(Not sure where the Florian-Hate that crops up here and over at Ars Technica from a couple rabid anti-fans comes from but…)

Anyone who really cares about this issue can, contrary to one of the comments here (I guess if you can’t Google it it doesn’t exist?), go to the USITC EDIS document search site and look this up.

The ITC Investigation Number: 337-724
Public version of AMD’s motion to intervene: Doc. Number 459301
Apple’s response to AMD: Doc. Number 460229

4 The Mad Hatter { 10.02.11 at 10:27 am }

@jacs,

It isn’t “Florian-Hate”. Florian and I have had our disagreements in the past. He has several times proved to be wildly inaccurate. I no longer trust anything that Florian says, unless there is documentation to prove that he is telling the truth. Why should I trust someone who seems to have such a weak relationship with the truth?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

In this case I see that the documentation does exist. I was not aware of that United States Government site, which isn’t surprising. I am not a United States citizen. If you want to know about Canadian Government sites, I am far more expert. For that matter I know a half dozen Federal Members of Parliament (though I’ll admit that they may wish that they didn’t know me – I can be a royal pain in the ass when I want something).

I’ve spent over an hour reading the documents, and it looks like I could spend another week doing so, but I don’t have the time right now, I have some paid writing that has to be done.

I can say without fear of contradiction, that some lawyers are going to make money out of this.

Wayne

5 vanfruniken { 10.03.11 at 2:10 am }

So, instead, HTC should be prosecuted for maliciously filing suit on false grounds. (I know there is a legal term for that, but I forget). Can the DOJ take the initiative or should someone else do this? (Hint, Hint)

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