The U.S. International Trade Commission, the country's top trade court, is launching an investigation into allegations by Nvidia that several Samsung cellphones and tablet PCs contain graphics technology that infringes on its patents.
The ITC's move is in response to a complaint lodged by Nvidia in early September with the ITC and at the U.S. District Court in Delaware.
The ITC has become an increasingly popular place to file patent infringement complaints in recent years because it can move quicker than other courts and, if it finds merit in the complaint, halt imports of the infringing products into the U.S. That can have a much greater immediate impact than civil court cases, which often drag on for years.
The phones in question are the Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4. Three tablets were named: the Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Note Pro and Galaxy Tab 2.
The ITC noted that the start of an investigation does not indicate an initial decision on the merits of Nvidia's complaint.
"Instead of developing its own graphics processing technology, Samsung purchases and uses Qualcomm's infringing processors and GPUs, as well as other processors and GPUs that infringe the claims of the asserted patents," Nvidia said in its complaint filed in the Delaware court.
The Silicon Valley-based company said it had attempted to negotiate a license with Samsung, but the company repeatedly rebuffed the proposals.
Samsung is the world's biggest smartphone maker and a popular target for patent lawsuits.
Its most famous battle has been playing out over the past few years in numerous courts around the world against Apple, which argued and won several declarations of patent infringement against Samsung. However, the battle wasn't totally one-sided. Samsung also succeeded in convincing a California jury that Apple had infringed on some of its patents.
Nvidia and Qualcomm could not immediately be reached for comment.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org