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AMD could win 2020 with Nvidia running out of people to build its next-gen GPUs

With TSMC hit by GlobalFoundries, and Samsung blocked by the Japanese government, where can Nvidia turn for its next-gen GPUs?

High-performance GPUs

There’s a “greater than 50%” chance of GlobalFoundries winning its legal dispute with TSMC, Nvidia, Apple, and others, and that could have a huge impact on the semiconductor industry. This is the view of industry analyst, and CEO of VLSI Research, Dan Hutcheson.

Even if GloFo doesn’t manage to prevent products manufactured by TSMC being imported into the US and Germany, the fact the case could drag on of for years alone could really damage the wider tech industry. There are a huge number of defendants named in the patent infringement case GlobalFoundries has brought against TSMC and, with goods from Nvidia, Apple, Qualcomm, Mediatek, Broadcom, and Asus potentially affected that could have a massive impact on the PC market.

Hutcheson also suggests that it could seriously slow down orders for TSMC while the case continues to be fought in the courts. On the positive side that should mean TSMC will have ample fabrication capacity for AMD which, somewhat bizarrely, isn’t mentioned at all in the GloFo case despite being quite a major customer of the Taiwanese manufacturer.

“You can expect countersuits from TSMC,” Hutcheson says to EETimes (via Fudzilla) There’s a high likelihood that TSMC has intellectual property that’s being infringed on. This is going to be a long legal battle… 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.”

None of this makes for good reading in an industry that’s already being dragged down by El Presidente 45’s trade war with China, and not forgetting the Japanese government’s restrictions on chemical exports to South Korea. SK Hynix, LG, and Samsung are facing restrictions on key chemicals used in chip manufacturing from Japan, for “national security” reasons, and that means all kinds of memory and panel manufacturing could be affected.

Samsung EUV Hwaesong fab

Not only that, but some of those chemicals are vital for the advanced EUV production process that Samsung has been touting around customers of its 7nm node. And there’s one big GPU manufacturer reportedly signed up for “substantial” chip production next year…

So yeah, if you were hoping for next-gen Samsung-built, EUV-based, Nvidia graphics cards arriving in your rig next year then between GlobalFoundries and the Japanese government you might find yourself wanting. AMD must be licking its lips at the prospect of its main GPU rival potentially being hamstrung by this industrial pincer movement…

Some have even suggested the company might be partly involved in the situation itself, with Seeking Alpha pointing to GlobalFoundries’ owner being heavily invested in AMD. Though spectacularly convenient, that sounds an awful lot like baseless conspiracy theorising to us.

Speaking of which… TSMC, for its part, has refuted the legal claims of GlobalFoundries, calling them “baseless” and “meritless” and probably something even worse behind closed doors.

TSMC wafer

“We are disappointed to see a foundry peer resort to meritless lawsuits instead of competing in the marketplace with technology,” the company says in a public statement. “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.”

EETimes also spoke with another analyst, Mike Demler of The Linley Group, who classed the infringement claims of GlobalFoundries as appearing rather generic.

“It’s almost impossible to support a patent for something as basic as building a transistor, since everybody pretty much does it the same way,” says Demler. “They might mix the recipe a bit, but if it’s obvious to ‘one skilled in the art’, it’s hard to claim uniqueness. It’s just another waste of money that will mostly go to the lawyers.”

Whatever happens with the GlobalFoundries case and the Japanese export restrictions, Nvidia, among others, are probably going to find future manufacturing a lot tougher than it will have thought just a month ago.

Who will make Nvidia’s next-gen GPUs now? GlobalFoundries?! Join the conversation on this article’s Facebook and Twitter threads.