UPDATE: NVIDIA Platform Products PR Manager Bryan Del Rizzo wrote back to us and explained this news is really old and dates back to early 2007. A BIOS fix to disable the feature was rolled out starting in January 2007 and products that were introduced after this date have it disabled by default. He also added that AMD is currently being sued by OPTi on the exact same issue.
Here's the original article which is based on the report by FUD Zilla that was published this morning:
FUD Zilla claims a patent from OPTi spells more trouble for NVIDIA. The site says every NVIDIA chipset from the nForce 500-series and onwards infringes a patent regarding to PCI prefetch that OPTi holds. The two parties didn't manage to reach an agreement and NVIDIA has decided to remove the PCI prefetch feature from its chipsets.
This feature speeds up performance by making the system controller prefetch data whenever the PCI device reads data from the system memory. According to FUD, motherboard makers will need to issue new BIOS versions without PCI prefetch and they will also need to erase all traces of the old BIOS versions which infringe OPTi's patent:
The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, it means that just about every single Nvidia chipset from the nForce 500-series and onwards is affected and as such, PCI prefetch has to be removed from all retail boards and every single BIOS upgrade that contains the PCI prefetch code has to be removed from the web. This also means that all Nvidia partners have to release BIOS updates for every single Nvidia motherboard from the nForce 500-series and onwards.
For the consumers, this means that they'll get very poor PCI performance, so if you're using any PCI cards in your Nvidia based motherboard, don't upgrade to the latest BIOS, as it will reduce the performance of the PCI bus. This isn't going to be popular with a lot of users out that that have already upgraded their BIOS, as this "feature" has already been implemented by some motherboard manufacturers going back a couple of months.
Furthermore, Nvidia will be asking for written confirmations from all its partners that older BIOS versions have been removed from their websites and that no BIOS versions with PCI prefetch will ever see the light of day outside of the companies again. All boards currently on sale must also have the BIOS changed, although this only seems to apply to the US market as of right now.