GlobalFoundries has filed a lawsuit against TSMC and its clients in the USA and Germany alleging the world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors of infringing 16 of its patents. Among the defendants, GlobalFoundries named numerous fabless developers of chips, including Apple, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and many others. The plaintiff seeks damages from TSMC and wants courts to ban shipments of products that use semiconductors allegedly infringing its patents into the USA and Germany.

GlobalFoundries says that TSMC infringed 16 of its patents covering various aspects of chip manufacturing (details), including those chips that use FinFET transistors. In particular, the company claims that TSMC’s 7 nm, 10 nm, 12 nm, 16 nm, and 28 nm nodes use its intellectual property. Considering that these manufacturing processes are used to make more than a half of TSMC’s chips (based on revenue share), the potential damages being claimed by GlobalFoundries may reach the billions of dollars.

GlobalFoundries filed complaints in the US 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. In its lawsuits GlobalFoundries demands damages from TSMC and wants courts to bar products that allegedly infringe its rights from being imported into the U.S. and Germany.

Owing to the legal requirement to file claims against the companies who are actually infringing on GlobalFoundries' patents within the United States – TSMC itself is based in Taiwan, so their manufacturing operation is not subject to US jurisdiction – the suit also includes several of TSMC's customers, all of whom import chips into the US that are built using the technology under dispute. Among the big names accused of infringing upon GlobalFoundries' IP are Apple, ASUS, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, NVIDIA, Lenovo, and Motorola. Accordingly, if the courts were to take GlobalFoundries’ side and issue an injunction, such an action would prevent importing a wide swath of tech products, including Apple’s iPhones, NVIDIA GeForce-based graphics cards, smartphones running Qualcomm's SoCs made by TSMC, various routers, as well as devices (e.g., PCs, smartphones) by ASUS and Lenovo containing chips made by TSMC.

GlobalFoundries vs. TSMC et al
Fabless Chip Designers Consumer Product Manufacturers Electronic Component Distributors

GlobalFoundries says that it wants to protect its IP investments in the US and Europe. Here is what Gregg Bartlett, SVP of engineering and technology at GlobalFoundries, had to say:

“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. 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."

GlobalFoundries vs. TSMC et al, GF's Patents in the Cases
Title Patent No. Inventors
Bit Cell With Double Patterned Metal Layer Structures US 8,823,178 Juhan Kim, Mahbub Rashed
Semiconductor device with transistor local interconnects US 8,581,348 Mahbub Rashed, Steven Soss, Jongwook Kye, Irene Y. Lin, James Benjamin Gullette, Chinh Nguyen, Jeff Kim, Marc Tarabbia, Yuansheng Ma, Yunfei Deng, Rod Augur, Seung-Hyun Rhee, Scott Johnson, Subramani KengeriSuresh Venkatesan
Semiconductor device with transistor local interconnects US 9,355,910 Mahbub Rashed, Irene Y. Lin, Steven Soss, Jeff Kim, Chinh Nguyen, Marc Tarabbia, Scott Johnson, Subramani Kengeri, Suresh Venkatesan
Introduction of metal impurity to change workfunction of conductive electrodes US 7,425,497 Michael P. Chudzik, Bruce B. Doris, Supratik Guha, Rajarao Jammy, Vijay Narayanan, Vamsi K. Paruchuri, Yun Y. Wang,Keith Kwong Hon Wong
Semiconductor device having contact layer providing electrical connections US 8,598,633 Marc Tarabbia, James B. Gullette, Mahbub RashedDavid S. Doman, Irene Y. Lin, Ingolf Lorenz, Larry Ho, Chinh Nguyen, Jeff Kim, Jongwook Kye, Yuansheng MaYunfei Deng, Rod Augur, Seung-Hyun Rhee, Jason E. Stephens, Scott Johnson, Subramani Kengeri, Suresh Venkatesan
Method of forming a metal or metal nitride interface layer between silicon nitride and copper US 6,518,167 Lu You, Matthew S. Buynoski, Paul R. Besser, Jeremias D. Romero, Pin-Chin, Connie Wang, Minh Q. Tran
Structures of and methods and tools for forming in-situ metallic/dielectric caps for interconnects US 8,039,966 Chih-Chao Yang, Chao-Kun Hu
Introduction of metal impurity to change workfunction of conductive electrodes US 7,750,418 Michael P. Chudzik, Bruce B. Doris, Supratik Guha, Rajarao Jammy, Vijay Narayanan, Vamsi K. Paruchuri, Yun Y. Wang, Keith Kwong Hon Wong
Methods of forming FinFET devices with a shared gate structure US 8,936,986 Andy C. Wei, Dae Geun Yang
Semiconductor device with stressed fin sections US 8,912,603 Scott Luning, Frank Scott Johnson
Multiple dielectric FinFET structure and method US 7,378,357 William F. Clark, Jr., Edward J. Nowak
Bit cell with double patterned metal layer structures US 9,105,643 Juhan Kim, Mahbub Rashed
Complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) device having gate structures connected by a metal gate conductor US 9,082,877 Yue Liang, Dureseti Chidambarrao, Brian J. Greene, William K. Henson, Unoh Kwon, Shreesh Narasimha, and Xiaojun Yu
Hybrid contact structure with low aspect ratio contacts in a semiconductor device DE 102011002769 Kai Frohberg, Ralf Richter
Complementary transistors comprising high-k metal gate electrode structures and epitaxially formed semiconductor materials in the drain and source areas DE 102011004320 Gunda Beernink, Markus Lenski
Semiconductor device with transistor local interconnects DE 102012219375 Mahbub Rashed, Irene Y. Lin, Steven Soss, Jeff Kim, Chinh Nguyen, Marc Tarabbia, Scott Johnson, Subramani Kengeri, Suresh Venkatesan

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Source: GlobalFoundries

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  • patel21 - Monday, August 26, 2019 - link

    I would really love Apple buying out GoFlo and kickstarting their 7nm and further technologies.
  • melgross - Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - link

    Cases like this should just be thrown out. If TSMC was using their patents way back with 28nm, it’s impossible to believe that GF wasn't aware of it then. Considering that, why did they wait through 22nm, 18nm, 16nm, 14nm, 12nm, 10nm, and now, finally, 7nm?

    They should have to provide evidence that they didn’t know of this back then. Otherwise, it’s just a typical troll tactic. Sit back and wait until a company becomes reliant upon something before suing. That way, they have no choice but to make a huge payout, because they can’t back out of what they’re doing, which they could have in the beginning.

    And they’re saying that no other chip manufacturer (Intel, obviously) uses any of these patents? Nuts!
  • HStewart - Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - link

    I knew someone would blindly blame Intel here - Intel has nothing to do with GoFlo /TSMC Lawsuit.
  • Korguz - Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - link

    and i knew you would defend intel, when no defense was needed. but your intel blindness, prevents you from seeing the possibility, that intel could be using some of these patents as well.
  • mikato - Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - link

    As other comments have said, it's possible they didn't act previously because it would have affected their own customers negatively and they weighed the tradeoffs in favor of not acting. Now the equation is different. I have no idea regarding when a company needs to take this action if they know some infringement is taking place and whether or not waiting until the other company develops reliance or something would invalidate a claim.
  • Maxiking - Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - link

    It is a scam like every AMD have touched.
  • sa666666 - Thursday, August 29, 2019 - link

    Why don't you, Phynaz and HStewart get a room? That is, unless you're not already just split personalities of the same obvious troll.
  • Bob Dean - Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - link

    It seems that these patents are regarding the manufacturing process...
  • AnakinG - Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - link

    I wonder how much reverse engineering GF had to do to make a case for this thing... It's so hard to prove "infringement" on process.
  • rocketbuddha - Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - link

    The problem is that the Power Point Foundry specialists which grew by chewing multiple Fab companies. The latest casualty being IBM micro electronics.

    With AMD moving to TSMC for the "best" process node as GF is stuck with 12nm for the near future and whatever "special" foundry work, atleast AMD is throwing them a bone by making the current XBOX and PS4 chips as well as IO dies for the Ryzen 3 and Rome processors. If Gonzolo and Scarlett are going to be fabbed at < 12nm then there goes future orders from MS and Sony.

    I think the kick to the b**ls was when IBM decided to go with Samsung for their future POWER processors rather than with GF to whom it sold its fabs in 2015 years back...It sold its 14nm FD-SOI and now has decided to work with Samsung on 7nm FinFET for future processors leaving GF with no big customers of their own but heavy infrastructure of Fabs..
    So they have to find ways to get the cash register running and why not suing ;-)

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