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Tuesday, August 29, 2000
NVIDIA Sues 3dfx
11:58 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Graphics chip maker NVIDIA has recently had a wild ride to the top of the PC graphics card market, trouncing competitors in benchmarks and scoring an extremely lucrative deal to provide the graphics hardware for Microsoft's forthcoming X-box console. However, they don't seem content with merely outselling their rivals. In a move that seems certain to cause ripples in the entire 3D card market, NVIDIA has filed a lawsuit against their biggest rival, 3dfx. The suit accuses 3dfx of appropriating or imitating several technology patents in the production of their recent graphics cards. Not only do they want 3dfx to stop manufacturing or selling their line of Voodoo 3, 4, and 5 cards, but they are asking for monetary damages as well.

Here is an excerpt from the press release:

SAN JOSE, Calif.-- NVIDIA(TM) Corporation, the leader in advanced graphics processing
technology, announced today that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against 3dfx
Interactive Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

NVIDIA's lawsuit involves five NVIDIA patents and seeks an injunction restraining 3dfx from
manufacturing, selling or importing infringing graphics chip and card products including VooDoo3,
Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 and VSA-100 family of products, as well as monetary damages.

The lawsuit alleges that 3dfx's graphics chip and card products which are used to accelerate 3D
graphics on personal computers, infringe on the following NVIDIA U.S. Patents: No: 5,687,357;
No. 5,721,947; No: 5,758,182; No: 6,023,738; and No: 6,092,124.

"We have always been on the forefront of innovation in 3D graphics technology and visual computing," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of NVIDIA. "This innovation is achieved through the annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development. We cannot allow the fruits of this investment to be misappropriated."

The timing of this suit seems unusual, as the V3 card has been on the market for over a year, but often legal moves are a disguise for more subtle machinations behind the scenes. It is well known in the industry that the 3D chipmakers often raid each others' staff for engineers -- one engineer in particular has worked for 3dfx, ATI and NVIDIA. This may indeed be the source of the lawsuit, or how patented information moved from one company to another. Regardless, an injunction stopping the sales of the 3dfx Voodoo4 and 5 cards would have a definite impact on Mac gamers as well as PC gamers, as these cards are currently the fastest available on our platform.

As with most legal situations, it will be months before any decisions are made. You can be sure we will be following this one closely, as will the entire industry -- for, as an article at Tech Report which analyzes the situation points out, this is exactly the strategy that Creative Labs used to drive their competitor Aureal out of business.

Tech Report's Analysis of Lawsuit
3dfx Web Site
NVIDIA Press Release on 3dfx Lawsuit

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