Chip-maker’s lawsuit could block iPhone imports to the US

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TSMC 7nm processor
TSMC microprocessors like these are the subject of a massive lawsuit brought by a US chipmaker.
Photo: TSMC

US-based Globalfoundries filed multiple patent-infringement lawsuits against TSMC, the Taiwanese company that manufactures the processors used in all iPhone and iPad models. It also sued Apple, Google and others that make products with TSMC chips.

The lawsuits seek the block the import into the US and Germany of all semiconductors made with what Globalfoundries claims is its intellectual property.

“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,” said Gregg Bartlett, SVP of engineering and technology at Globalfoundries. “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 lawsuits were filed today in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas, and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany.

It’s early days for this lawsuit. Whether Globalfoundries has any hope of blocking iPhone and iPad imports remains to be seen. The same goes for any of the “significant damages” it’s seeking from TSMC and others.

Globalfoundries not what it once was

Globalfoundries used to be a significant competitor for TSMC. It might have even grabbed some production of Apple’s A9 processor years ago.

But the US- and German-based company has been unable to continue producing chips as advanced as TSMC’s. Last year, it stopped work on a plant to produce 7-nanometer processors. In contrast, TSMC makes the 7nm chips in all the 2018 iPhone models, and will have 5nm ones next year.

Globalfoundries continues to produce 14nm and 12nm processors, and bills itself as the “world’s leading specialty foundry based in the United States.”

Source: Globalfoundries