GlobalFoundries Slaps TSMC With Patent Suit Seeking Ban On Apple, NVIDIA, Qualcomm Chips

TSMC Headquarters
It looks like we have another patent fight brewing in the tech world, and this time the battle is between Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and GlobalFoundries. The latter has filed multiple lawsuits against the former, alleging infringement on 16 patents. GlobalFoundries filed the lawsuits with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and with the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany.

The reason why this particular legal showdown is so significant is because TSMC manufactures a wide range of chips covering a large segment of tech products on the market. For example, TSMC manufacturers GPU for NVIDIA (ala the GeForce RTX/RTX Super) and Qualcomm's family of dominant Snapdragon SoCsthat power most of the Android smartphones sold around the globe. Even Apple makes use of TSMC to products the long-running line of A-Series SoCs that power everything from its HomePod to the iPhone XS to the iPad Pro.

Other companies that rely on TSMC for chip production include AMD, MediaTek, and Broadcom (among countless others). The lawsuit lists a total of 20 defendants including some big names like Google, Cisco, Lenovo, Motorola, and TCL.

TSMC Engineer

"These lawsuits are aimed at protecting those investments and the US and European-based innovation that powers them,” explained Gregg Bartlett, who serves as SVP for engineering and technology at GlobalFoundries. “For years, while we have been devoting billions of dollars to domestic research and development, TSMC has been unlawfully reaping the benefits of our investments. This action is critical to halt Taiwan Semiconductor’s unlawful use of our vital assets and to safeguard the American and European manufacturing base.” 

While the lawsuit points to 16 specific patents that were infringed upon, there are five TSMC process nodes in particular that GlobalFoundries is targeting: 28nm, 16nm, 12nm, 10nm, and its most recent 7nm production lines.

GlobalFoundries most definitely seems like an underdog going up against the likes of TSMC and its deep pocketed customers, but it looks as though any recourse that the company attempted to obtain with closed door talks has failed. It remains to be seen, however, if the courts will decide in its favor; and if they do, it could mean huge ramifications for much of the tech industry.

You can read a summary of GlobalFoundries' case against TSMC, the parties involved, and the patents in question by reading the following fact sheet [PDF].