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Patent infringement suits ramp up for the holiday season

In what appears to be a bit of a shocker in the industry, Silicon Graphics Inc. this week filed a patent infringement lawsuit against ATI Technologies Inc. Current details on the patent infringement is short but SGI is claiming that ATI infringed on SGI U.S. Patent No. 6,650,327, which covers some technical aspect of graphics processing. Details on what exactly the patent is about was also omitted.

Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) is also seeking damages at an unspecified amount and an injunction, stopping ATI from developing and shipping graphics processors that infringe on SGI's patents. At this time, it's not clear what ATI has done, or if ATI will respond with its own lawsuit since both companies have been developing graphics technologies for quite a number of years.

"The Company's technology covered by the '327 patent is an important resource in achieving enhanced graphics processing demanded by today's computer systems," said Dennis McKenna, chief executive officer of Silicon Graphics. The company also indicated that whatever patent 327 was, it also licensed it for use with a number of ATI's competitors -- although the company did not indicate which companies were using the patent.

ATI itself recently completed the final stages of its merger with AMD. ATI shareholders approved of the merger in a recent meeting and both companies are now one. Neither AMD nor it's ATI division had anything to say about SGI's lawsuit.

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By Schadenfroh on 10/25/2006 12:01:40 PM , Rating: 3
I see that SGI put their bankruptcy lawyers on the offensive now that they have emerged. I am actually surprised that no one has bought SGI out.

RE: quick
By peternelson on 10/25/2006 1:02:23 PM , Rating: 2
If AMD bought SGI that would rock!

Maybe that's what SGI are trying to achieve here by suing AMD/ATI. It could be cheaper just to buy them and SGI was and is a great company. A bargain at current stock valuations!

RE: quick
By Pandamonium on 10/25/2006 1:39:58 PM , Rating: 2
It's patents like these that make a mockery of our legal system. You shouldn't be able to patent a theoretical method. You can patent a physical device that executes said theoretical method, but you shouldn't be able to patent an algorithm.

RE: quick
By Murst on 10/25/2006 2:04:52 PM , Rating: 2
That is absolutely one of the stupidest things I've heard.

So if I came up with a method to cure AIDS or cancer, I couldn't patent it? The only thing I could patent is the machine that mixes the fluids to make it?

The IDEA is the important part. Implementing it is, in most cases, trivial.

RE: quick
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2006 2:25:35 PM , Rating: 3
You should be able to patent your method. But you shouldn't be able to patent the idea of curing AIDS. They didn't patent their method. They patented the idea of using floating point values to process graphics data and store it in a frame buffer. If they patented their method, fine. I doubt ATI is using the same exact algorithm that SGI did to process data in their driver. Sure, some code is similar or perhaps even the same, but that doesn't mean they copied SGI's implementation.

A floating point rasterization and frame buffer in a computer system graphics program. The rasterization, fog, lighting, texturing, blending, and antialiasing processes operate on floating point values....The final floating point values corresponding to pixel attributes are stored in a frame buffer and eventually read and drawn for display. The graphics program can operate directly on the data in the frame buffer without losing any of the desired range and precision of the data.

The .... is them just explaining an example case. That patent is similar to Microsoft patenting the idea of an operating system. Or Intel patenting the idea of a CPU. With that patent, they can effectively stop anyone else from creating and selling a graphics card that processes 3D graphics regardless of how it works. Unless you can find another way to represent graphics data as something other than a floating point number and store the data in something other than a buffer.

RE: quick
By Murst on 10/25/2006 3:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
This patent is the the process of getting data from one "section" of the graphics processor to another. This is in no way similar to SGI patenting graphics cards, MS patentint OS, or Intel patenting CPUs.

It solves a problem which, prior to SGI's solution, did not have a solution.

It may seem obvious to you now, but that's generally the way solutions are. Just because something is obvious AFTER someone comes up with a solution should not, in any way, strip the inventor of their due credit for solving the problem.

RE: quick
By Spivonious on 10/25/2006 3:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
I have a hard time believing that using floating point numbers for graphics data is really "patentable". There has to be something else.

RE: quick
By Murst on 10/25/2006 3:09:44 PM , Rating: 2
Its not. Half of the people on these forums are just too stupid to realize that.

RE: quick
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2006 5:55:21 PM , Rating: 2
Where do you see anything in that patent description about moving data from one place to another?

If it had some kind of a procedure for how the final data eventually ended up in the frame buffer, I'd agree with you. All it says though is that the final data is stored in the frame buffer to be eventually drawn out to the screen.

Maybe in the full patent document theres more but from that description, theres nothing about how data is moved through the GPU.

RE: quick
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2006 6:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
And based on that patent description, to me the only thing they could patent is storing the data in the frame buffer before its written to the screen. And I really don't think SGI thought that up considering there were displays and computer graphics before SGI existed.

RE: quick
By patentman on 10/25/2006 8:23:38 PM , Rating: 2
"That patent is similar to Microsoft patenting the idea of an operating system. Or Intel patenting the idea of a CPU."


Seriously people, you all need to know what you are talking about BEFORE you start arguing about it. IN this case, it might be a wee bit helpful if you knew something about patent law. For instance, it might be helpful for youto know that the scope of a patent is defined by the CLAIMS. While the claims are interpreted in light of the specification, limitations from the specification are not (generally) brought into the claims (although since the phillips case courts are doing this more often).

RE: quick
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2006 9:35:18 PM , Rating: 2
Thats my point. Ideas aren't patentable but thats what that patent is. An idea.

RE: quick
By patentman on 10/25/2006 8:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
READ 35 U.S.C. 101. Ideas ARE NOT patentable.

35 U.S.C. 101 Inventions patentable. Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

RE: quick
By Saist on 10/26/2006 7:33:17 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not so sure that SGI is and was a great company.

What you need to remember is that many of the better hardware designers at SGI had already split off several years ago into a Company called ArtX. Now, you might remember ArtX because they created an Electrically Efficient Graphics processor named Flipper. You might remember flipper as being the graphics processor behind the #2 console in world wide sales, the Nintendo Gamecube.

You might also remember then that before the Nintendo Gamecube launched, ATi bought ArtX up. This was news back in 2000 because it meant that many of the developers behind the OpenGL specification were now on ATi's payroll. ATi's turn around from Market-Dog with the 8500 to Market Leader with R300 and Catalyst is widely attributed to ArtX, aka SGI.

There have been several articles over the years between then and now detailing the Impact that ArtX had on ATi, and it widely reguarded that if ATi had not merged with ArtX, ATi would be in the position of a certain company called 3dfx... (which was bought up by Nvidia).

There have also been several editorials between the creation of ArtX, the sale to ATi, and now, about how the split from SGI resulted in SGI's descent into bankruptcy. It is not exactly an industry secret that the movers and shakers in ArtX, were the movers and shakers in SGI.

I think what we are going to find in this lawsuit is that the person who came up with this for SGI is currently on ATi's payroll, and probably is a high ranking withing ATi right now.

Quite frankly, if I was ATi, I wouldn't want to buy out the dirt when the diamonds were already mined... over 6 years ago.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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