GlobalFoundries (GF) has filed patent lawsuits against Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world, alleging that TSMC’s processors infringe on GlobalFoundries’ patents held in the US and Germany, via Tom’s Hardware. As part of the lawsuit, GlobalFoundries is looking to block imports of processors it says rely on those patents to be produced — which would include all of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, every Google Pixel smartphone, every Nvidia GPU, and more.
While the legal battle is in its early stages, if courts rule in favor of GlobalFoundries, it could have a massive impact on the consumer technology business: along with Apple, Google, and Nvidia, GF also calls out companies like Asus, Broadcom, Cisco, HiSense, Lenovo, MediaTek, Motorola, OnePlus, Qualcomm, and TCL that also rely on TSMC chips for their hardware as part of the lawsuits.
A big deal, depending on what courts decide
All told, GlobalFoundries says that TSMC is infringing on 16 patents — 13 in the US and another three in Germany — the list of which can be found here. Unlike TSMC, GlobalFoundries isn’t particularly involved in consumer electronics. GF does provide some chips for AMD, which notably isn’t included in the targeted list of companies despite the fact that AMD does rely on TSMC for producing its more recent 7nm processor hardware.
GlobalFoundries had also announced last fall that it would be ending its development of a future 7nm technology node for producing chips (which is the reason that AMD uses TSMC chips in the first place), and was instead shifting its strategy toward more targeted applications like RF and IoT chips. Without the capacity to compete with silicon juggernauts like TSMC and Samsung on a technological level, it appears that GF has decided that the next best option is to leverage its patents to win on a legal battleground instead.
“These lawsuits are aimed at protecting those investments and the US and European-based innovation that powers them,” said Gregg Bartlett, SVP of engineering and technology at GF, in the company’s announcement of the lawsuit. “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.”