Apple's ongoing use of ImgTec PowerVR GPU IP

Discussion in 'Mobile Graphics Architectures and IP' started by tangey, Apr 3, 2017.

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  1. Entropy

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    I might guess so too. But one reason I quoted that 2013 job listing was this bullet point.
    Can hardly be put in plainer words, can it?
     
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  2. 3dilettante

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    It would be an ill-advised job posting stating that Apple intended to develop infringing IP. That would make treble patent infringement damages unusually easy to argue.
    Apple's able to assert in a job posting that what it's doing doesn't infringe, but I think most defendants that lose patent cases say they weren't infringing either.

    Given the roll of the dice inherent to high-stakes IP lawsuits, IMG's threat that they're bound to have something pixel-related that Apple will infringe is real, even if after a lot of wrangling it gets shot down.
    Selling off chunks of the company to build up a war chest and driving up the patent generation of the group whose work will be used to sue Apple seems like a possible motivation for IMG's move.
     
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  3. Ailuros

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    Was there anyone amongst us that didn't expect that Apple IS in fact developing its own GPU IP? I was only VERY surprised with the timing as I didn't expect it as early. Chances are high that expectations inside IMG were/are similar; either way it doesn't change anything in the end only that IMG didn't have enough time to get rid of their too high dependency on Apple for PowerVR sales and I am as bold to claim that Apple picked that EXACT timing on purpose.

    I honestly hope that IMG's folks won't spent too much time, energy and resources if the last sentence should be true. What they really need right now is invest as much as they can into their core business (PowerVR) and chase their heels for even more deals/licenses in order to recover soon enough before it's too late.

    Honestly I personally never really understood why they had been so keen to get MIPS even more so considering that they spent more on its purchase then it was actually worth. Yes I can understand the point that they wanted to have as much as possible to be able to have a full IP offering for an entire SoC, but whoever at the former upper management thought that they can compete with ARM in that regard must have been smoking something severely hallucinogenetic.

    Also not too long after they bought MIPS I mentioned somewhere here in the forum that PowerVR gets IMHO too much neglected and yes it was just a gut feeling and yes it's VERY unfortunate that it turned out to be true (***). The former management just rested its laurels on the Apple deal and now that things got to a very critical point comes the very LATE insight that PowerVR is their actual base and the actual part of the company that can save them......

    (***) https://forum.beyond3d.com/posts/1817380/
     
    #103 Ailuros, May 5, 2017
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
  4. Entropy

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    Of course they can try that.
    But it doesn't make a shred of sense to assume that Apple would spend several years of aquisitions, recruitments and development to develop infringing IP now does it?
    Particularly since they have very intimate knowledge concerning IMGs IP, from a licensee perspective, from an owner perspective (they own a major stake in IMG, you think they don't know what they own?) and from a creator perspective, since some of the people involved in the development of IMGs portfolio are now working at Apple.

    It makes every bit of sense that when they spend the effort to develop in-house technology, that a primary design goal is that they can freely deploy and modify it, hell being independent is presumably the entire point!
    Honestly, whatever funds IMG can liberate are probably better spent betting on horses than betting against Apple in this case. Their stock is still listed though. Anyone who thinks IMG is going to make a killing from litigation are free to buy their shares. Apple are probably prepared to sell theirs.
     
  5. 3dilettante

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    It's been alleged at times that large players have done something to the effect of infringe, profit massively, outlitigate/settle. Sour grapes might play into it, but Transmeta sued Intel over later versions of Speedstep that behaved like LongRun.
    Intel settled for $250 million.

    Assuming that isn't the plan, the general algorithm is to develop technology as blindly as possible to avoid treble damages for intentional infringement, then play the game of cross-licensing mutually assured destruction if working in an interdependent industry like tech.
    One of the claims for deliberate infringement in Apple's massive patent loss in the WARF case is that it cited the patent it was sued over as prior art in a filing.

    The big players cross-license or settle, because of course they're going to infringe on something when everyone makes thousands of broad-as-possible patents in a year, or there's a non-zero chance a court is going to stretch a patent sufficiently to find them infringing. Generally, you don't want evidence that you were looking since a loss after looking raises the chance of a finding it was willful infringement.

    That's what makes it extra dangerous unless Apple licenses something from somewhere. If they used their intimate knowledge as best they can to not infringe, and they mess up a little (or a court does), it's up to 3x worse.
    A possible injunction could cost Apple more than a settlement as well.

    They can do all of that, but it's still not up to them whether they are found infringing on someone's IP. Developing purely in-house just means they don't know if they're infringing, or if they'll be found infringing.

    A bad outcome is IMG dedicates itself to suing Apple and its record 25 billion dollar cash reserves that it will argue couldn't have happened in a large amount due to IMG.
    The actual industry nightmare is if IMG implodes.
    IMG would be familiar with a way out the nightmare scenario, since it was done with MIPS when MIPS sold much of its IP to a consortium that promised to insulate the big players from litigation from trolls.
    That netted $350 million.
    IMG could move to sue Apple, and if that fails it can threaten set up a lawsuit bomb for everyone.
     
  6. Entropy

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    I don't disagree with anything you say, per se.
    I'm just saying that assuming that Apple is unaware of these issues, or that that they have failed to do exactly what they said they set out to do, and what they say they have accomplished, and which is in their obvious interest - well, it's not an assumption I would make.
     
    #106 Entropy, May 5, 2017
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
  7. 3dilettante

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    I'm not assuming Apple isn't aware of the issues. They've been embroiled some pretty brutal IP judgements already, both ways.

    Apple could readily design something from beginning to end that winds up infringing.
    My position is that Apple is free to say they don't infringe, but the determination is not fully in their power to make.

    Given the ecosystem the performant and compatible devices have been building off one another for generations, with thousands of overlapping design, method, and software patents, I would not assume the outcome that essentially nobody has managed would be the likely one.

    However, to more finely parse Apple's job posting, they could readily develop IP and pay for whatever winds up infringing to maintain full control over what they make. However, in that scenario, success may lie in the future. Another scenario is a tautology, where Apple develops a lot of things, and by definition anything not infringing is owned from beginning to end--I don't think the posting said they'd only work with technology nobody else owned.
     
  8. Entropy

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    True.
    And I guess if they had such a need the obvious party for Apple to have struck such a deal with would be AMD.

    But we are deep into hypotheticals here.
     
  9. RoOoBo

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    By selling MIPS and Ensigma IMG management is either going back to the past (survive for years as the top mobile graphics IP provider) or getting ready to liquidate the company as a whole by using the PowerVR patents to suck a lot money from Apple.

    Going back to the past seems hard today given how crowded the ARM (ie mobile) space is with GPU IP (ARM/Mali, Qualcomm/Adreno and NVidia). And ARM has been down-pricing them with Mali IP for years now. That's why IMG become so dependant on Apple SOCs. When they moved out of the crowded PC GPU market in the early 2000s there was a slowly growing mobile market where PowerVR could and did survive. If mobile is like the PC GPU market of old, where could PowerVR survive now?

    And finally, how many of the original, and probably key, IMG engineers remain in the IMG office and didn't move next door to Apple's office in London ... Does the PowerVR team team and roadmap really exists beyond what is already developed? That's it beyond 2020. From what I understand IMG engineering survived from low paid recent UK university graduates than eventually moved up to other companies and a core senior engineer team. How many senior engineers remain?
     
  10. Rodéric

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    Thought it could be a move to be more interesting for Apple who already have an ARM licence.
     
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  11. RoOoBo

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    Yes, I also think the most probable scenario is still Apple buying IMG/PowerVR at the end of the process. The previous comment was for those that seemed to suggest that it was a move to restore the old IMG/PowerVR.
     
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  12. tangey

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    And just to confirm that, it was announced yesterday by sondrel , that they've 'acquired' IMGworks.

    http://www.sondrel.com/news/imgwork...on-technologies-acquired-by-sondrel-uk-ic-eng

    Doesn't mention if any money was involved.

    IMG as yet have not posted the news on their website
     
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  13. Ailuros

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  14. tangey

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    only very tenuously related, but I tried to post here:-
    https://forum.beyond3d.com/threads/imagination-technologies-chief-executive-change.57576/
    But I'm being told I have insufficent priveledges to reply there, whatever that means.

    Anyhow, amazingly, the new owners of Pure decided that it was a good decision to appoint as chairman, the former CEO of IMG, the guy that consistently made it a loss making part of IMG since its inception.

    http://www.pure.com/press/may-2017/sir-hossein-yassaie-joins-pure-as-chairman
     
  15. ToTTenTranz

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    I posted this on the more general thread too, but I think it's relevant here:

    http://www.investegate.co.uk/imagination-tech-plc--img-/rns/final-results/201707040700260301K/

    As bullet points:

    And then from IMG's CEO:


    It seems IMG's official position is that apple is using their GPUs, despite claiming otherwise.
     
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  16. BRiT

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    You're misreading the statement(s).

    That statement seems clear to me. It is not that Apple isn't making GPUs. It's that Apple is making GPUs without needing IMG licenses. That's the aspect IMG is refuting.
     
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  17. Entropy

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    And which aspect, specifically, of Apples new solution is infringing on ImgTech patents?
     
  18. Rodéric

    Rodéric a.k.a. Ingenu
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    We don't know, but Apple managing not to infringe anyone's GPU patent seems highly unlikely...
     
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  19. Entropy

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    I tried to make a point.
    The company is up for sale, and Andrew Heath wants to maximize perceived value.
    But the truth of the matter is that he has no idea what Apples new IP is. Nobody outside Apple has.
    So he makes speculative noise, but there is no data whatsoever to back him up, and Apple (who, again, are the only ones who know what goes into their new chips) see no need to pay any license fees (which they could otherwise very well do).

    Once a product is out, ImgTech can claim infringement specifying where Apples product is in violation of their patents. Apple has no obligation to prove anything any more than a loudspeaker manufacturer has to seek out all patent holders in audio and prove to them that their product doesn't infringe any of their patents when launching a new product. That's just not how the process works.

    Andrew Heath tries to serve the stockholders, basically talking to the financial sector.
     
    #119 Entropy, Jul 5, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
  20. loekf

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    I wish him good luck if this new Apple GPU supports the Metal API and e.g, the ARKit API and he has to figure out IP infringement by staring at API manuals and die photos.

    Apple today responded:

    https://www.macrumors.com/2017/07/07/apple-hits-back-imagination-tech-contract-dispute/

    Appearently already in 2016 they told IMG It would be over soon, so not until March 2017.

    I still have troubles to believe Apple can design a GPU itself without infringing anybody's patents (Nvidia, their "friends" in Orange County, AMD, Intel, ARM etc). On the other hand they hired a whole bunch of guys (mostly..) from IMG, who of course know their way through the patents' minefields.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Apple is aiming for some kind of hetereogenous architecture with CPU blocks, GPU blocks, AI blocks, video blocks etc. on one SoC. AMD was hyping this for years, but maybe finally someone figured it out.

    What's still missing is a modem on the same die as the rest. However, 4G/5G is just connectivity like WIFI ;-) Qualcomm might think otherwise. It's a mature, slowly changing technology, so you are crazy to integrate it in a state-of-the-art CMOS technology. Multi-chip is the way to go.
     
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