NVIDIA & 3dfx Wage Legal Battle, Frackas Could Give Apple Pause Before Striking New BTO Options

Earlier this week, graphic accelerator powerhouse NVIDIA filed suit against rival 3dfx over patent infringement claims. NVIDIA contends that 3dfx has violated no fewer than five NVIDIA patents, and NVIDIA hopes the legal action will stop 3dfx from manufacturing or distributing any more units of their Voodoo3 and Voodoo5 series of cards, as well as any forthcoming product that would use the VSA-100 chip.

Among the patents NVIDIA is claiming that 3dfx violated are two dealing with graphic display and acceration. Patent number 6,023,738 is about the, "Method and apparatus for accelerating the transfer of graphical images," while patent number 6,092,124 deals with "Method and apparatus for accelerating the rendering of images."

These patents are directly related to what the two companies do best, make cards that produce very high-quality graphics. While the suit awaits a court decision, 3dfx has claimed "No Foul." 3dfx is currently awaiting the results of their own infringement case against NVIDIA, and believe the latest move by the later company is in defense of the potential outcome of that case. 3dfx officials released the following statement:

NVIDIAis filing of a suit is clearly an attempt to force a settlement of our existing patent infringement lawsuit against NVIDIA, and we believe demonstrates a lack of confidence in their current defense," said Alex Leupp, president and CEO of 3dfx Interactive. "We anticipate receiving rulings as to claim interpretation issues in our existing lawsuit shortly, and are committed to protecting our intellectual property and maximizing the financial benefits of our technology for our shareholders. We regret that NVIDIA feels compelled to resort to these kinds of tactics as a defense of the pending litigation. 3dfx intends to vigorously defend itself against this litigation.

This latest legal battle takes on more significant meaning with Mac users as 3dfx has recently released their first card for the Mac OS, the Voodoo5 5500 PCI. They are also preparing to take the wraps off of the single-chip version of the card, the Voodoo4 4500. NVIDIA has also recently released their first Mac compatible chip, the GeForce 2 MX, a lower level version of their GeForce 2 product line which is a highly regarded accelerator for the Windows world. While no Mac product is yet shipping from NVIDIA, the company is said to be courting an OEM deal with the built in Mac support for the new product line.

Stay tuned as more details become available.