updated 06:40 pm EST, Thu January 20, 2011
Apple sues S3 in video card dispute
Apple has quietly responded to S3's International Trade Commission ban attempt by filing a lawsuit. Submitted earlier in the month, the Northern Distrct of California complaint's details are mostly unknown. The response is likely extensive as the court won't allow a digital version due to the "oversized" document, which seldom occurs in these cases.
The countersuit is likely to either be an attempt to invalidate S3's patents, preventing the ITC ban, or else is accusing S3 of violating some of Apple's own patents. Apple just Wednesday used the former strategy in trying to invalidate a Nokia patent, but more of its legal dispute with Nokia as well as those with HTC and others have seen it wield its own patents as leverage. Many countering lawsuits are launched with the hopes that the original party will agree to a settlement rather than risk having its products banned or endure a larger court-ordered payout.
S3 is informally believed to be using its ITC complaint to compensate for its long decline in the graphics business. It was once one of the most important graphics chipset designers in the 1990s and had an early head start on accelerated 3D with its ViRGE hardware. The rapid rises of ATI and NVIDIA and a lack of competitive hardware relegated S3 to a minority player, however, and it now focuses mostly on low-energy add-in cards and on-the-mainboard video.
None of the involved companies have explained the nature of the new lawsuit or detailed their planned responses.