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Globalfoundries Files Patent-infringement Lawsuits Against TSMC in the U.S. and Germany

GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF), the world's leading specialty foundry based in the United States, today filed multiple lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany alleging that semiconductor manufacturing technologies used by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) infringe 16 GF patents. The lawsuits were filed today in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas, and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany.

In filing the lawsuits, GF seeks orders that will prevent semiconductors produced with the infringing technology by Taiwan-based TSMC, the dominant semiconductor manufacturer, from being imported into the U.S. and Germany. These lawsuits require GF to name certain major customers of TSMC and downstream electronics companies, who, in most cases, are the actual importers of the products that incorporate the infringing TSMC technology. GF also seeks significant damages from TSMC based on TSMC's unlawful use of GF's proprietary technology in its tens of billions of dollars of sales.

AMD Patents new System and Method for Protecting GPU Memory Instructions Against Faults

With ever increasing number of exploits, processor manufacturers are finding new and improved ways to secure their system against such dangers. Exploits can be found on hardware and software level, but ones on hardware level are harder to patch and protect against. If you remember Spectre and Meltdown, they used CPU's branch speculation to enforce unwanted instruction stream. At software/firmware level we also got a fair number of exploits like recent "Screwed Drivers" incident, where drivers signed and approved by Microsoft are susceptible to privilege escalation.

However, AMD has patented a new way for protecting GPU memory instruction against faults by using a new system method. The proposed method uses system's "master and slave" devices and manipulates their instruction streams and check for any errors in the process. Firstly, the proposed system converts "slave" device request to dummy operations like NOP (No OPeration) is, and modifies the memory arbiter to issue N master and N slave global/shared memory instructions per cycle, sending master memory requests to memory system. Then it uses slave requests to check for errors and enter master requests in to memory FIFO aka First In First Out memory buffer. Slave request is stored in a register. Finally two values from register, where slave request was stored, and FIFO are compared to see if there are any differences.

AMD Patent Shines Raytraced Light on Post-Navi Plans

An AMD patent may have just shown the company's hand when it comes to its interpretation of raytracing implementation on graphics cards. The patent, titled "Texture Processor Based Ray Tracing Acceleration Method and System", describes a hybrid, software-hardware approach to raytracing. AMD says this approach improves upon solely hardware-based solutions:
"The hybrid approach (doing fixed function acceleration for a single node of the bounded volume hierarchy (BVH) tree and using a shader unit to schedule the processing) addresses the issues with solely hardware based and/or solely software based solutions. Flexibility is preserved since the shader unit can still control the overall calculation and can bypass the fixed function hardware where needed and still get the performance advantage of the fixed function hardware. In addition, by utilizing the texture processor infrastructure, large buffers for ray storage and BVH caching are eliminated that are typically required in a hardware raytracing solution as the existing vector general purpose register (VGPRs) and texture cache can be used in its place, which substantially saves area and complexity of the hardware solution."

AMD Patents a New Method for GPU Instruction Scheduling

With growing revenues coming from strong sales of Ryzen and Radeon products, AMD is more focused on innovation than ever. It is important for any company to re-invest its capital into R&D, to stay ahead. And that is exactly what AMD is doing by focusing on future technologies, while constantly improving existing solutions.

On June 13th, AMD published a new method for instruction scheduling of shader programs for a GPU. The method operates on fixed number of registers. It works in five stages:
  • Compute liveness-based register usage across all basic blocks
  • Computer range of numbers of waves for shader program
  • Assess the impact of available post-register allocation optimizations
  • Compute the scoring data based on number of waves of the plurality of registers
  • Compute optimal number of waves

AMD Patents Variable Rate Shading Technique for Console, VR Performance Domination

While developers have become more and more focused on actually taking advantage of the PC platform's performance - and particularly graphical technologies - advantages over consoles, the truth remains that games are being optimized for the lowest common denominator first. Consoles also share a much more user-friendly approach to gaming - there's no need for hardware updates or software configuration, mostly - it's just a sit on the couch and leave it affair, which can't really be said for gaming PCs. And the console market, due to its needs for cheap hardware that still offers performance levels that can currently fill a 4K resolution screen, are the most important playground for companies to thrive. Enter AMD, with its almost 100% stake in the console market, and Variable Rate Shading.

As we've seen with NVIDIA's Turing implementation for Variable Rate Shading, this performance-enhancing technique works in two ways: motion adaptive shading and content adaptive shading. Motion adaptive shading basically takes input from previous frames in order to calculate which pixels are moving fast across the screen, such as with a racing perspective - fast-flying detail doesn't stay focused in our vision so much that we can discern a relative loss in shading detail, whilst stationary objects, such as the focused hypercar you're driving, are rendered in all their glory. Valuable compute time can be gained by rendering a coarse approximation of the pixels that should be in that place, and upscaling them as needed according to the relative speed they are moving across the frame. Content adaptive shading, on the other hand, analyzes detail across a scene, and by reducing shading work to be done across colors and detail that hasn't had much movement in the previous frame and frames - saves frame time.

A Christmas Gift: Intel Accuses Qualcomm of Stifling Competition

An Intel Newsroom post penned by the company's Steven Rodgers takes a stab at Qualcomm over their patent litigation cases. Titled "Qualcomm's Patent Litigation Campaign isn't Really about Vindicating Intellectual Property Rights", Rodgers cites the number of times Qualcomm has been fined by various authorities around the world, "nearly a billion dollars in China, $850 million in Korea, $1.2 billion by the European Commission and $773 million in Taiwan (later reduced in a settlement) for anti-competitive practices." Citing consequences such as reduced innovation and raised prices for consumers, Intel calls out Qualcomm in that its goal isn't to "vindicate its intellectual property rights, but rather to drive competition out of the market for premium modem chips, and to defend a business model that ultimately harms consumers."

Now, the collective hardware enthusiast memory isn't one to be trifled with, so I will leave it to you to figure out exactly where the irony is in these accusations. Of course, bad history on a company's part doesn't preclude any responsibility from any other company that is currently employing anti-competitive tactics that do, ultimately, stifle innovation and increase prices for consumers. As some Portuguese humorists would say, "one thing is one thing, another thing is another thing". But I'd say, jibbing my way through this, that it takes one to know one.

Apple Files Patent for a MacBook with Virtual Keyboard and Invisible Trackpad

Did you know, that the home buttons on the iPhone 7/Plus, and iPhone 8/Plus aren't real buttons? It's a flat surface with pressure and fingerprint sensors, and when pushed hard enough, the Taptic module underneath simulates the tactile-feedback of pushing a real SMD button (which is why the button feels jammed when the iPhone is powered down). Apple's latest generation of MacBooks already have real keyboards with extremely short key travel, that's well enough received by its users to convince the company to toy with a notebook with completely virtual keyboards.

Apple filed patent applications for a new generation of MacBooks that completely lack physical keyboards, and instead have two screens on the opposing halves of the traditional notebook clam-shell. The upper half has a higher-resolution main screen, while the lower half has a slightly lower-resolution screen that's good enough to display virtual keyboards of any shape, layout or character-set; in addition to more content. This screen will have toughened glass, and a super-sensitive capacitive 3D touch layer, and Taptic modules underneath. The trackpad, too, is virtual, and can be located wherever you like. Apple will give MacOS more gesture-based control riding on the success of the iPhone X. The patent application shows that Apple has succeeded in simulating keyboards' tactile-feedback on Taptic, and it's only a matter of time before notebooks with real keyboards could be relegated to sub-premium market segments.

Samsung Facing Fine of $400 Million Over FinFET Patent Infringement

Bloomberg is reporting that Samsung was hit with a $400 million fine last Friday, (ahem) courtesy of a Texas federal jury. The source of the patent infringement relates to FinFET-specific technology that is being said was "illegally, and willfully taken" from the licensing arm of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the South Korean university. If you're wondering why was such a case between two South Korean institutions settled in Texas, well - KAIST IP US, the university's licensing arm is strangely (or not) based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, - a venue considered "particularly friendly" to patent owners.

The $400 million is just the initial sum; since Samsung's mishandling of the intellectual property (usage without payment) was found to be "willful", the company could be faced with up to three times those charges. Bloomberg's report says that KAIST claimed in its initial complaint that Samsung was dismissive of the FinFet research at first, believing it would be a fad. Apparently, that all changed when rival Intel Corp. started licensing the invention and developing its own products, according to KAIST IP. Samsung, naturally, disagrees: the company that it helped the university develop the technology in the first place, and that it was "disappointed by the verdict", and "will consider options to obtain an outcome that is reasonable, including an appeal."

ENERMAX launches T.B.SILENCE ADV, the Superior Ultra Silent Fan

ENERMAX, a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance PC hardware products, launches T.B.SILENCE ADV fan series. The 2nd generation of the highly acclaimed T.B.SILENCE fans incorporates several new features, including optimized low starting speed to 300RPM, Enerflo channel blade design, and vibration-damping rubber pads, to deliver smooth and persistently silent operation. Moreover, T.B.SILENCE ADV also retains some of proven designs from the predecessor series, such as Twister Bearing technology, detachable blade design, and modular frame with aluminum ring, which enables stable and silent running of the fan.

Intel's "Bitcoin Mining Hardware Accelerator" Patent Filling Published

A filed patent by Intel has shed some light on the company's idea to somewhere, along the fuzzy lines of the future, introduce a Bitcoin mining hardware "accelerator" to the market. The application itself, for a "Bitcoin Mining Hardware Accelerator With Optimized Message Digest and Message Scheduler Datapath" was originally submitted in September 2016, so it's not exactly a novel idea. However, the fact that it has just now been published doesn't really mean there hasn't been work behind closed doors at Intel towards development of working silicon of this technology.

In the filing, it appears it's Intel's intent to create a chip that could augment the existing Bitcoin mining process by increasing energy efficiency. As they themselves put it, "Because the software and hardware utilized in Bitcoin mining uses brute force to repeatedly and endlessly perform SHA-256 functions, the process of Bitcoin mining can be very power-intensive and utilize large amounts of hardware space. The embodiments described herein optimize Bitcoin mining operations by reducing the space utilized and power consumed by Bitcoin mining hardware."

Asetek Loses Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Cooler Master

Asetek, a company known for designing water-cooling solutions for PC hardware that it sometimes licenses to other manufacturers, has lost a patent infringement lawsuit it had levied against Cooler Master. The lawsuit, which looked to impede the sale of Cooler Master products Nepton 120XL, Nepton 240M and Seidoen 120 V v.2, stated that Cooler Master was infringing on Asetek's European EP 1 923 771 patent, which describes a water cooling mechanism. This Asetek patent, filed in November 2004 and finally approved in May 2015, is in itself based on Asetek's older, US-bound patents.

However, The Hague's court has accepted Cooler Master's argument that they too have a similar patent to Asetek's, through a so-called "utility model" that already exists in China, which describes (and patents really show their problems here) the "operation of a water pumping engine device with chamber". The The Hague judge also invalidated Asetek's patent lawsuit on the basis that there was not enough inventiveness to it. Asetek and Cooler Master's legal battles aren't anything new; in 2015, a US-based court ordered Cooler Master to pay Asetek $600,000 for patent infringement. This time, it's the other way around, even though it was still Asetek that started the legal battle: the company now has to pay Cooler Master for their legal expenses, which amount to around €113,000 (~$134,204)

Patent Trolls to Lose their "Homefield" Advantage Thanks to Supreme Court

Thanks to a ruling from the Supreme Court, patent trolls could see their designs being thwarted more often than they have until today. Patent trolls stand as a scourge of the industry, ie, companies and even individuals that hold intellectual property with the sole purpose of levying infringement lawsuits against other companies - without producing anything themselves. They're kind of the leeches of the tech and business worlds, without some of the benefits their biological counterparts manage to deliver.

Asetek Receives Award of $600K After Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Asetek today announced that it has received payment of approximately $600 thousand as awarded in a patent infringement lawsuit against CMI USA, Inc. In December 2014, the U.S. District Court unanimously ruled in favor of Asetek on all claims in a patent infringement lawsuit against CMI USA, Inc. ("CMI") involving Asetek's U.S. Patents 8,240,362 and 8,245,764. The jury awarded Asetek damages representing a 14.5% royalty on CMI's infringing sales since 2012. After an appeal by CMI, the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued an opinion in April 2017 affirming the prior rulings regarding infringement, validity, damages and injunction against CMI. Payment from CMI of approximately $600,000, including interest, was received by Asetek today.

"This award signifies another successful defense of Asetek's intellectual property," said André Sloth Eriksen, Founder and CEO of Asetek. "As part of efforts to build and maintain market share, we closely review and assess all competitive offerings for infringement of our patents. We are pleased with our success in defending them."

ZeniMax Awarded $500 Million in VR Patent Lawsuit Against Oculus

ZeniMax Media Inc. has been awarded a $500 million settlement in a virtual reality (VR) patent dispute with Facebook-owned Oculus. A jury in Texas found Oculus in violation of VR patents held by ZeniMax. Oculus in 2014 was acquired by Facebook in a $2 billion deal. ZeniMax owns id Software, a pioneering game studio led by John Carmack. ZeniMax alleges that core components of Oculus Rift VR headset were developed by John Carmack, when he was working at a ZeniMax subsidiary, making them ZeniMax' intellectual property. Carmack left ZeniMax to work for Oculus in 2013.

Superflower Announces the Upcoming "Double Forward Platform" for their PSUs

Super Flower, a global leader in PC gaming power supplies (and whose designs are used by a multitude of PSU manufacturers ranging anywhere from 80+ Bronze to 80+ Platinum rated power supplies), today announced its upcoming double forward 80+ Bronze product line, with available wattages ranging from 400W to 850W, with the 750W , 800 W and 850 W also being available in semi-modular options. Super Flower's own innovative layout design with optimized & refined topology includes various first grade and high-quality components, on products with power ratings of 400W / 450W / 500W / 550W / 600W / 650W / 700W / 750W / 800W and 850W.

Western Digital Corporation Renews Patent Cross-License Agreement with Samsung

Western Digital Corporation, a world leader in storage technologies and solutions, today announced that it has signed a definitive royalty-bearing agreement with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. to renew the cross-license of the two companies' semiconductor patent portfolios. The terms of the renewed agreement are retroactive to the end date of the prior agreement, which expired on August 14, 2016. The renewed agreement will run through December 31, 2024.

The agreement includes rights to each party's patents broadly covering multi-level cell flash memory and flash storage systems. The original agreement, which dates back to 1997 and had been renewed twice before, had permitted Samsung to use patented flash memory technologies invented by SanDisk, which Western Digital acquired in May 2016.

NVIDIA and Samsung Agree to Settle All Outstanding IP Litigation

NVIDIA and Samsung have agreed to settle all pending intellectual property litigation between the two companies, NVIDIA announced today. The agreement will lead to the immediate dismissal of all pending IP litigation in U.S. district courts, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Patent Office between the companies. The settlement includes the licensing of a small number of patents by each company to the other, but no broad cross-licensing of patents or other compensation. Further details of the agreement are not being disclosed.

Western Digital and IBM Announce Patent Acquisition and Cross-License Agreements

Western Digital today announced that it has acquired more than 100 patent assets from IBM (NYSE: IBM). The parties also entered into a patent cross-license agreement. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Patents acquired by Western Digital are in distributed storage, object storage, and emerging non-volatile memory. Western Digital expects the IP to further strengthen its technology leadership position and drive value creation for the company and its customers. The patents will augment Western Digital's existing portfolio of more than 10,000 patents and patent applications.

"This agreement reflects our continued focus on innovation and sets the stage for even more rapid advancement and commercialization of new data storage solutions," said Mike Cordano, president and chief operating officer, Western Digital. "We are building on Western Digital and IBM's long-standing relationship and look forward to future collaborations and business opportunities."

NVIDIA Stares at Sales Ban as US-ITC Rules in Samsung's Favor in Patent Dispute

The ongoing patent dispute between NVIDIA and Samsung over mobile SoC patents, in which NVIDIA fired the first shot, is not going to well for team-green. With Samsung counter-suing NVIDIA over infringing its own bouquet of patents, NVIDIA is staring at a possible sales ban. A United States International Trade Commission (US-ITC) judge held that NVIDIA is violating at least three Samsung patents.

This decision is due for review in a few months from now. If upheld, NVIDIA is staring at a sales-ban on all products violating the three Samsung patents. Luckily for NVIDIA, one of the three patents expires in 2016, and the sales-ban could last a few months, at best. NVIDIA predictably stated that it is disappointed in the decision. Samsung hasn't commented.

AMD Responds to Asetek's R9 Fury X Sales Cease-and-Desist

AMD issued a response to a recent report which states that liquid cooling components maker Asetek issued a cease-and-desist to the company, to stop sales of the Radeon R9 Fury X graphics card, which implements a closed-loop liquid-cooling solution made by Cooler Master. In its response, AMD argues that the jury in the Asetek vs. CMI (Cooler Master) case did not mention the cooling solution of the Radeon R9 Fury X specifically, as infringing Asetek-held patents. The statement reads:
"We are aware that Asetek has sued Cooler Master. While we defer to Cooler Master regarding the details of the litigation, we understand that the jury in that case did not find that the Cooler Master heat sink currently used with the Radeon Fury X infringed any of Asetek's patents."
While AMD is right in pointing out that the original judgement does not name the R9 Fury X, or its cooling solution as an infringing product; there's no word on whether AMD will stop sales of the card. From the looks of it, AMD has no plans to stop sales of its flagship graphics product, and appears to have convincing legal arguments up its sleeves to continue selling the card, in the near future.

Microsoft and ASUS Broaden Patent Licensing Engagement

Microsoft Corp. and ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (ASUS) on Thursday announced the expansion of an earlier patent licensing agreement between the companies. The deal includes a broad cross-license covering, for example, ASUS Android-based phones and tablets and Microsoft software, devices and services. It paves the way for closer integration between the two companies, including pre-installation by ASUS of Microsoft Office productivity services on ASUS Android smartphones and tablets. The agreement also facilitates technology sharing toward the development of new, innovative product solutions.

"This agreement delivers significant value for both companies. Beyond ensuring continued improvements to our products, it opens the door to the kind of collaboration between Microsoft and ASUS made possible only through mutual respect and alignment on intellectual property," said Nick Psyhogeos, president of Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC. ASUS General Counsel Vincent Hong said, "This agreement will give us both a greater ability to innovate for our customers. We see it leading to broad partnership opportunities for future technologies and a strengthened relationship between our two companies as leaders of the technology industry."

ASETEK – Court Confirms Judgement, Increases Damages Award and Issues Injunction

In late 2014, Asetek won a patent infringement case against CMI USA, Inc. ("CMI") at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The jury unanimously ruled in favor of Asetek, and awarded damages based on a 14.5% royalty rate. In a post trial motion, CMI demanded a judgement as a matter of law and a new trial.

The court yesterday denied CMI's demands, and instead substantially followed Asetek's requests and issued a permanent injunction barring CMI and its parent Cooler Master from selling certain infringing products into the Unites States. Also, the judge awarded Asetek enhanced damages i.e., a 25.375% royalty rate, on CMI's revenues for sales of infringing products beginning January 1, 2015. It should be noted that the matter is appealable by CMI.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Completes Acquisition of IBM Microelectronics Business

GLOBALFOUNDRIES today announced that it has completed its acquisition of IBM's Microelectronics business. With the acquisition, GLOBALFOUNDRIES gains differentiated technologies to enhance its product offerings in key growth markets, from mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) to Big Data and high-performance computing. The deal strengthens the company's workforce, adding decades of experience and expertise in semiconductor development, device expertise, design, and manufacturing. And the addition of more than 16,000 patents and applications makes GLOBALFOUNDRIES the holder of one of the largest semiconductor patent portfolios in the world.

"Today we have significantly enhanced our technology development capabilities and reinforce our long-term commitment to investing in R&D for technology leadership," said Sanjay Jha, chief executive officer of GLOBALFOUNDRIES. "We have added world-class technologists and differentiated technologies, such as RF and ASIC, to meet our customers' needs and accelerate our progress toward becoming a foundry powerhouse." Through the addition of some of the brightest and most innovative scientists and engineers in the semiconductor industry, GLOBALFOUNDRIES solidifies its path to advanced process technologies at 10 nm, 7 nm, and beyond.
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