Nvidia's Licensing Dispute With Intel Heats Up

The Intel license makes it possible for Nvidia to ship graphics technology in Intel-powered PCs from major computer makers.
Nvidia on Wednesday said it was "confident" that its licensing agreement with Intel extends to the latter company's next-generation microprocessors, which Intel has claimed in court are not covered by the 4-year-old license.

Intel alleged in a state court filing in Delaware Monday that the agreement that lets Nvidia connect its graphics chipsets to Intel processors doesn't include chips built on Intel's Nehalem microarchitecture, which incorporate graphics technology and a memory controller on the same piece of silicon as the main processor. Intel shipped Nehalem-based processors late last year for high-end desktops and workstations, and is set to release versions for mainstream PCs, including laptops, this year.

"We are confident that our license, as negotiated, applies," Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive of Nvidia said in a statement. "At the heart of this issue is that the CPU has run its course and the soul of the PC is shifting quickly to the GPU. This is clearly an attempt to stifle innovation to protect a decaying CPU business."

Intel has been boosting the graphics capabilities in its chipsets for a while, encroaching on Nvidia's market in PCs, which have become increasingly focused on video, music, and other forms of entertainment. Nvidia, on the other hand, is trying to replace Intel chipsets.

In the middle of this year, Nvidia plans to release its Ion graphics technology for mini-laptops, called netbooks, and some low-end mini-desktops. The platform would run alongside Intel's Atom processor, making it possible for the low-end systems to run high-definition video on top of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. The Nvidia chipset would replace those from Intel that currently ship with Atom, and future versions of Ion are likely to extend to other PCs.

Nvidia entered the licensing agreement with Intel in 2004, and said it has been trying to settle the latest dispute for more than a year. The deal also included Intel licensing Nvidia's patents for its 3-D, graphics, and other computing technologies, according to Nvidia. The Intel license makes it possible for Nvidia to ship graphics technology in Intel-powered PCs from major computer makers, such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba and others.