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TSMC fights back against GlobalFoundries with “multiple lawsuits” of its own

The big semiconductor manufacturing war rages on... but can anyone actually win?

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In a move that will come as no surprise to anyone, TSMC has announced that it has filed multiple lawsuits against GlobalFoundries, claiming the rival semiconductor manufacturer is currently infringing on 25 of TSMC’s own patents. Well, it did say it was going to “vigorously defend” itself after GloFo started it.

Back at the tail-end of August GlobalFoundries alleged TSMC infringed on 18 of its own manufacturing patents, and was seeking to block the sale and import of any TSMC made semiconductors from entering the US and Germany. TSMC is now firing back with its own countersuits, aiming for injunctions to stop GlobalFoundries from manufacturing and selling any infringing products and is also looking for “substantial monetary damages.”

Industry analyst, Dan Hutcheson, predicted the TSMC countersuit last month, suggesting that “there’s a high likelihood that TSMC has intellectual property that’s being infringed on. This is going to be a long legal battle…” So long, in fact that he doesn’t see the industry recovering from this spat even next year. “The big impact will be if GlobalFoundries gets an injunction that stops customer imports into the EU and US. This alone would prevent the industry’s recovery in 2020.”

“TSMC, the world’s leading global innovator in semiconductor manufacturing filed multiple lawsuits on September 30, 2019,” reads the official statement from TSMC (via DigiTimes), “against GlobalFoundries in the United States, Germany and Singapore for its ongoing infringement of 25 TSMC patents by at least its 40nm, 28nm, 22nm, 14nm, and 12nm node processes. In the complaints, TSMC demands injunctions to stop GlobalFoundries’ manufacture and sale of infringing semiconductor products.

“TSMC also seeks substantial monetary damages from GlobalFoundries for its sale of infringing semiconductor products and unlawful use of TSMC’s patented semiconductor technologies.”

It also seems like there’s almost a suggestion that it could throw some more allegations into the mix too, where it states that the 25 patents in question – covering FinFET designs, shallow trench isolation techniques, and gate structures – “comprise just a small portion of TSMC’s extensive portfolio that numbers more than 37,000 granted patents worldwide.”

We’ve got a whole load more patents we can throw at this. Bring it.

TSMC and GloFo tech together in harmony

As Hutcheson says, this is a legal battle which is set to run and run, and it will be fascinating to see what the eventual outcome will be. With this counter by TSMC we could see GlobalFoundries immediately seeking to settle the legal wranglings if it sees itself in trouble, but equally it could just dig in and keep fighting.

If both companies win their respective suits, what then? If GlobalFoundries and TSMC products start getting injunctions placed on them where the hell are we going to get our AMD Ryzen processors, Radeon graphics cards, and Nvidia GPUs from?

From Samsung? Well, Japan’s trying to stifle that avenue too.

For the good of the industry we need a happy ending to all this, and that’s what TSMC claims to be seeking too.

“TSMC’s lawsuits seek to protect our reputation, our significant investments, our nearly 500 customers,” says Sylvia Fang, VP and general counsel for TSMC, “and consumers worldwide to ensure everyone benefits from the most advanced semiconductor technologies.”