GlobalFoundries, the spun-out and now-independent former manufacturing arm of AMD, has announced lawsuits against rival Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) alleging patent infringement - and is seeking a ban on TSMC-produced products.

GlobalFoundries has not been having a good run of late: After predicting it would be producing 7nm parts by 2018, the company switched chief executives before putting its 7nm plans on indefinite hold - forcing former owner AMD to switch to TSMC for its 7nm CPU and GPU production. Since then the company has spun off then sold off its Avera custom semiconductor division along with one of its fabrication facilities - and now has launched a legal battle with rival Taiwan Semiconductor, accusing the company of infringing on GlobalFoundries patents.

'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,' claims Gregg Bartlett, senior vice president 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.'

The suits, filed in the US and Germany for Europe, allege that TSMC's manufacturing process infringes on 16 of GlobalFoundries patents. As well as seeking damages from its rivals, the company is looking to prevent import of TSMC-produced and allegedly-infringing products in the US and Germany - a move which, if successful, would see products from companies including AMD and Nvidia disappearing from shop shelves.

The suit names TSMC's 28nm, 16nm, 12nm, 10nm, and 7nm production nodes as allegedly infringing on GlobalFoundries patents - accounting for the overwhelming majority of the company's output, and covering the latest 7nm products from AMD including its third-generation Ryzen CPUs. TSMC customers named in the suits include Apple, Asus, Broadcom, Google, Lenovo, Mediatek, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Xilinx though oddly exclude AMD - despite the company leaning heavily on TSMC production lines following the cancellation of GlobalFoundries' 7nm node.

TSMC has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing, and states that it will defend against the claims. 'TSMC is in the process of reviewing the complaints filed by GlobalFoundries on August 26, but is confident that GlobalFoundries’ allegations are baseless,' claims TSMC chief financial officer Lora Ho. '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.'

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October 14 2021 | 15:04