Ex-TSMC employee sued for spilling chip secrets to Samsung

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A8 chip
Samsung stealing technology? Say it ain't so!
Photo: Apple

 

Knowing how much is at stake, things can get pretty vicious when you’re a manufacturer with a shot at providing Apple with vital components for its next generation iPhone.

We’ve known for some time that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung have been battling it out over who gets picked by Apple to make its forthcoming A9 processors — with Samsung apparently having the advantage currently, due to offering Apple a better deal financially.

TSMC isn’t taking this lying down, however. In fact, the company is currently suing an ex-employee who allegedly leaked R&D secrets to Samsung; thereby allowing it to both catch up in the chip fabrication business.

Although Samsung isn’t being directly sued, there’s no doubt who TSMC is blaming, either.

“We brought the lawsuit because TSMC Chairman Morris Chang and senior management were convinced we needed to send a message to Samsung, employees and other competitors,” the former chief counsel for TSMC told EE Times. Apparently the initial technology that was “borrowed” related to 28-nanometer chip technology, spearheaded by TSMC. Samsung hasn’t made a public comment on the lawsuit, since it is not specifically being targeted by any of the complaints.

Should the suit amount to anything, however, it does raise the question of whether Apple will continue to stick by long-time frenemy Samsung. Apple knows better than anyone that Samsung is content to steal concepts and technology, and use this to gain an advantage competitive advantage — figuring that it is more cost-effective to do this and then pay damages, rather than miss the boat altogether.

While there’s an obvious benefit to seizing the cheapest deal it can find for chips, should Apple really continue to prop up a rival that is short on actual invention? Particularly coming at a time when Samsung’s mobile business is on wobbly legs, and profits are being kept up by chip manufacturing.

Personally speaking, I’d love to see Apple land a knockout blow in favor of the innovation I believe Apple stands for as a brand. But will Tim Cook feel the same way?