Lawsuits filed against TSMC could lead to U.S. import ban against iOS and Android devices

Lawsuits filed against TSMC could lead to U.S. import ban against iOS and Android devices
According to The Wall Street Journal, a lawsuit filed today by GlobalFoundries accuses the world's largest independent chip manufacturer, TSMC, of infringing on 16 of its patents. The suits were filed in various venues including the U.S. 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. GlobalFoundries seeks monetary damages and an injunction that prevents devices that infringe on its patents from being imported into the states. The ITC usually announces within one month after receiving a complaint whether it will conduct an investigation. A final ruling is made within 15 months.

The 20 defendants include tech companies that design their own chips, but don't have the facilities to manufacture them. This includes Apple, Broadcom, Mediatek, NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Xilinx. Manufacturers of consumer products that are defendants in the suit include Arista, Asus, BLU, Cisco, Google, HiSense, Lenovo, Motorola, TCL and OnePlus. If the courts do issue the injunction requested by GlobalFoundries, products like the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad, and Android devices using Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipsets could be banned from entering the U.S. As of last year, TSMC said that it is "manufacturing 10,436 different products using 261 distinct technologies for 481 different customers."

UPDATE: TSMC has released a statement which reads, "TSMC is in the process of reviewing the complaints filed by GlobalFoundries on August 26, but is confident that GlobalFoundries’ allegations are baseless. As a leading innovator, TSMC invests billions of dollars each year to independently develop its world-class, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing technologies. As a result, TSMC has established one of the largest semiconductor portfolios with more than 37,000 patents worldwide and a top 10 ranking for US patent grants for 3 consecutive years since 2016. We are disappointed to see a foundry peer resort to meritless lawsuits instead of competing in the marketplace with technology. TSMC is proud of its technology leadership, manufacturing excellence, and unwavering commitment to customers. We will fight vigorously, using any and all options, to protect our proprietary technologies."

The ITC could block imports of the Apple iPhone, iPad and certain Android devices from entering the U.S.


The patents cited by GlobalFoundries in its suit cover certain technologies used in the production of chips. The suit alleges that TSMC’s 7 nm, 10 nm, 12 nm, 16 nm, and 28 nm process nodes use unlicensed intellectual property belonging to the plaintiff. These chips provide TSMC with more than 50% of its annual revenue which means that the damages demanded by GlobalFoundries could be in the billions of dollars. 13 of the patents allegedly infringed are from the U.S. while the remaining three were registered in Germany. GlobalFoundreies is based in California but is owned by Mubadala Investment Co., an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government. It claims to have spent $15 billion in the states and $6 billion in Europe over the last 10 years.



The ITC can block the importation of products into the U.S. that infringe on U.S. patents. An import ban could do plenty of damage to companies like Apple and manufacturers of Android devices. Patrick Moorhead, the president of analysis and advisory firm Moor Insights & Strategy, says that the company went after manufacturers like Apple because they need faster chips than GlobalFoundries can produce. Moorhead said, "You can bet GlobalFoundries was trying to collect royalties behind the scenes, failed, and will now let the courts decide. The end [manufacturers] aren’t the main target, but targeted to put pressure on TSMC."

Over the last few years, GlobalFoundries has focused on cheaper chips that are less advanced but are still profitable. During this year's first quarter, the company had an 8.4% share of the market for contract chip production compared to 48.1% for TSMC and 19.1% for Samsung.

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19 Comments

1. Tipus

Posts: 899; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

Won't happen :)

2. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yea, TSMC is going to counter sue GlobalFoundries This is gonna backfire on GlobalFoundries is badly

4. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Or more likely in case of infringement by TSMC, they will settle the dispute by coughing up the money.

15. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Nope, TSMC has WAY more patents than GlobalFoundries TSMC will counter sue GlobalFoundries I won't be surprised if GlobalFoundries ends up paying TSMC lol

11. oldskool50 unregistered

Why will it backfire? GlobalFoundries is about to get paid, because the suites will end up being dropped because they will get a cross-licensing deal and TSMC will likely pay them some money upfront too. Just because you countersue with some BS, doesn't mean you will win. Ask Apple and Samsung about that.

16. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

This is desperate move by GlobalFoundries, who can't even keep up with Samsung TSMC has WAY more patents than GlobalFoundries I won't be surprised if GlobalFoundries ends up paying TSMC lol

21. iushnt

Posts: 3138; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

No company can keep up with Samsung easily, not just Global Foundries..

5. gadgetpower

Posts: 283; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

Now patent troll is a serious business.

6. Cyberchum

Posts: 1099; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Tell me about it.

7. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

GlobalFoundries isn't exactly a patent troll... AMD once founded it and it still produces chips to this day, so it likely has a valid claim.

17. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

AMD sold GlobalFoundries because it was struggling to keep up with Intel/TSMC and thus holding AMD back e.g. GlobalFoundries couldn't develop their own 14-10nm processes, which meant AMD on 28nm vs Intel on 14nm GlobalFoundries eventually licenced Samsung's 14LPP And GlobalFoundries cancelled their 7nm process AMD fleeced the Emirate of Abu Dhabi with the sale of GlobalFoundries Now they pull this desperate move to try recover their money AMD has already moved almost all their business to TSMC/Samsung GlobalFoundries only produces AMD's IO dies and low-end GPUs on their old cheap 12LP/14LP processes

19. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Yet none of that proves that they are in the wrong for suing.

20. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Nothing proves that are right either Lets see how this plays out But I'll be surprised if TSMC ends up paying GlobalFoundries anything I fully expect GlobalFoundries to end up paying TSMC

8. tokuzumi

Posts: 1946; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Nothing will happen. I mean, aren't Google and Oracle still fighting over Java code used in Android 7 years ago?

9. superguy

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Ok, what am I missing with what specifically was infringed? GF seems to allege issues going back to 28nm at least, but they didn't say a word until TSMC started eating their lunch. Why is that? Seems to me if there was that serious of patent infringement going on, that they wouldn't have waited until years after the fact to do something about it. And what about other companies that do have fabs like Intel, Samsung, Micron, IBM, etc? Why aren't they targeted?

12. oldskool50 unregistered

The article says, TSMC is infringing. Samsung is an ARM licensee that makes it own chips. They don't use technology made by GlobalFoundries, or maybe they have a cross-licensing deal with Samsung already. You ever though of that? of course not. Just because other company's makes chips, doesn't mean they are infringing The suit says TSMC is infringing. And OEM's that use them to make chips could have their products blocked from import. If Samsung was infringing, don't you think they would be included? Same with Micro? Same with IBM? Come on dude...really? You can't be that dense.

10. oldskool50 unregistered

Well we already know the ITC will not block any imports of Apple devices, even when they are actually the ones guilty. We saw that with the ITC finding Apple did indeed infringe on several patents by Samsung, yet they didn't ban any imports and then Obama's dumb azzzzz vetoed the ruling. TSMC can't afford to even fight this one, because if GlobalFoundries, created this case in so many courts, that means they have plenty of supporting evidence. Cross-licensing deal will come, TSMC will pay a fine am sure, they will increase prices on new contracts to cover the losses, which means chip costs will go up and thus any phone using parts made by them will also go up. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN STUFF. Thank you Samsung for being the smart one here, by making your own stuff.

13. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Techie are you really that stupid? Yes, you are. I realize you only have A+ certification, but have someone explain to you how complicated it is, and how many components go into making “a chip”. Samsung does not make their chips in a vacuum, and Samsung also relies heavily on others for “stuff” to make those chips. Any part which, should an issue arise, could shut down Samsung’s fan line(s).

14. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

"could", so that means nada

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