GloFo takes TSMC to court over process patents
The California-based foundry is seeking “significant damages” from TSMC because of the alleged use of Globalfoundries’ technology in making chips that have been sold for “tens of billions of dollars.”
The suits have been filed in the United States and Germany and represent an increase in the tension between the two companies that has lasted for at least a couple of years. However, this is thought to be the first time that Globalfoundries has mentioned publicly that TSMC is using its proprietary technology.
The lawsuits have been filed with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas, and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany.
In addition to seeking redress for the alleged patent infringement Globalfoundries is petitioning for a ban on semiconductor products made using the offending processes from being imported into the U.S. and Germany. These lawsuits require Globalfoundries to name customers of TSMC and downstream electronics companies, who, in most cases, are the actual importers of the products that incorporate the alleged infringing TSMC technology.
This would likely include such names as Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei and Apple and products such as the Apple iPhone and iPad and Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
“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 $15 billion dollars in the last decade in the U.S. and more than $6 billion 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,” said Gregg Bartlett, senior vice president, engineering and technology at Globalfoundries, in a statement. “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.”
Next: Long-running spat
Back in 2017 Globalfoundries is reported to have asked the European Commission to investigate TSMC for unfair leverage of its dominant position in the foundry market. In Europe TSMC was accused of such actions as: demands for exclusivity in contracts, offers of loyalty rebates, the bundling of sales, and threats of restricting access to TSMC’s semiconductor production. While TSMC has about 50 percent of the pure-play foundry market it is said to have 100 percent of the profit made in the industry. Globalfoundries was reported to have asked the Chinese authorities to conduct a similar investigation in 2019.
However, such antitrust investigations can be exceedingly lengthy and in August 2018 Globalfoundries decided to pull back from leading edge manufacturing processes.
At the time of publishing this report TSMC had not responded to the latest development. In the past TSMC has consistently denied any wrong-doing and said that it would co-operate with any anti-trust investigations.
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