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2 September 2019

Giant foundries’ patent battles embroil Apple, Google and many others

Two giant foundries, TSMC and GlobalFoundries (GF), have engaged in a legal battle in the USA and Germany which threatens to embroil key mobile players such as Apple, Qualcomm and Cisco.

The lawsuits center on GF’s claims that its Taiwanese rival, the world’s biggest semiconductor foundry, has infringed GF patents in 16 of its chip device and manufacturing technologies, in its 7nm, 10nm, 12nm, 16nm and 28nm processes. GF wants any chips produced with these technologies to be barred from being imported into the USA or Germany.

It has filed lawsuits against 20 companies in total – TSMC itself plus fabless chip designers, component distributors and device makers which use semiconductors made with the allegedly infringing technologies.  The defendants include Apple, Asus, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, HiSense, Lenovo, Mediatek, Motorola, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Xilinx; while distributors named in the suits are Avnet/EBV, Digi-key and Mouser.

Gregg Barlett, SVP of engineering and technology at GF, said: “While semiconductor manufacturing has continued to shift to Asia, GF has bucked the trend by investing heavily in the American and European semiconductor industries, spending more than $15bn dollars in the last decade in the US and more than $6bn in Europe’s largest semiconductor manufacturing fabrication facility. These lawsuits are aimed at protecting those investments and the US and European-based innovation that powers them.”

He added: “This action is critical to halt Taiwan Semiconductor’s unlawful use of our vital assets and to safeguard the American and European manufacturing base.”

The lawsuits were filed in the US International Trade Commission (ITC), the US Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas, and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany.