The price of patent love? $1.5B (with a B)

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By Scott Nyman

So what is the price of love these days? If you ask Intel, the price is $1.5 billion ($1,500,000,000.00 for those of you who like zeros) for the affection of NVIDIA. Microprocessor makers Intel and NVIDA recently came to a cross-licensing agreement, granting the two chipmakers access to a large number of patents in portfolios of each respective company. This agreement marks the end of a long running patent dispute over the infringement of patents owned by each company. Under this new deal, Intel will share a large number of its patents with NVIDIA , in addition to the $1.5B sum spread across the next six years. In return, NVIDIA will open up its patent portfolio to Intel for the same duration.

This is 4% of the sum to be paid by Intel

Despite having to pay the substantial royalties, Intel benefits from the deal by receiving access to NVIDIA technologies, especially related to graphics processing. This includes some of NVIDIA technologies already incorporated into Intel’s newly released “Sandy Bridge” x86 microprocessors. Additionally, with access to the NVIDIA patents, Intel will undoubtedly continue to integrate increasingly powerful graphic processing capabilities into their upcoming processor models.

It’s not difficult to see that NVIDIA benefits from this deal, considering just the royalties received. NVIDIA also receives access to use some of Intel’s patents relating to microprocessors and chipsets. NVIDIA has been looking to expand their microprocessor offerings, as demonstrated with the continued development of its Tegra SoC (system on a chip) series. However, Intel is not sharing its patents relating to proprietary x86 processor designs and flash memory technologies. This likely suits NVIDIA just as well, seeing how the chipmaker has continually stated no interest in entering the crowded x86 market.

The new direction for NVIDIA?

Actually, NVIDIA has been placing an increasingly large focus in the development of ARM based processors. President and Co-Founder Jen-Hsun Huang has been reported saying, “At the moment, energy around ARM is absolutely enormous, and if you, as a software developer, are not working with ARM, you have your head in the sand.” (source) Huang further evidences that Intel’s exclusion of x86 technologies is inconsequential to NVIDA, stating, “we have no intentions of building x86 processors.” Huang continues, “Our intention is to capitalize on the growing popularity of ARM processors… We’ve always felt that building yet another x86 processor when the world is a-flood with them is a pointless exercise.” (source)

I’m definitely curious to see what technologies come out of this cross-licensing agreement.


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Posted On
Jan 12, 2011
Posted By

I think the important thing to remember is that this is a cross license. That is, Nvidia got $1.5 B AND rights to all or a portion of Intel’s patents. Imagine what the price tag would have been if Intel had no patents …

Posted On
Jan 13, 2011
Posted By
Scott Nyman

Agreed. Intel is sharing a large portion of its patents with NVIDIA, rumored to exclude just the x86 CPU and flash memory controller (read SSD related) patents. Also, Intel has supposedly already incorporated a significant number of NVIDIA patents into the graphics processing unit of its new “Sandy Bridge” Core i7 and i5 processors. I wouldn’t be surprised if this helped push the negotiations to NVIDIA’s favor.

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