In a not-unexpected move, TSMC late on Monday filed a lawsuit against GlobalFoundries, its pure-play foundry rival, accusing the manufacturer of patent infringment. In the suit, a response to a similar suit filed against TSMC by GlobalFoundries just over a month ago, the world’s biggest contract maker of semiconductors is accusing its competitor of illegally using its intellectual property in its various photolithography processes. Furthermore, in order to prevent what they see as ongoing infringement, TSMC is also asking for the courts for an injunction against GlobalFoundries, which would essentially halt the latter's manufacturing lines.

Without disclosing the exact patents involved, TSMC is alleging that GlobalFoundries has infringed upon as many as 25 of its patents. According to the company, these patents cover the following technologies:

  • FinFET designs;
  • Shallow trench isolation techniques;
  • Double patterning methods, advanced seal rings and gate structures, and innovative contact etch stop layer designs;
  • Strench isolation technique;
  • Double patterning methods, advanced seal rings;
  • Gate structures, and innovative contact etch stop layer designs.

These patents supposedly cover most of GlobalFoundries' modern processes, including their 40nm, 28nm, 22nm, 14nm, and 12nm node processes technologies.

In their complaint, TSMC is demanding injunctions against GlobalFoundries, asking the courts to stop GlobalFoundries from making and selling chips using the allegedly infringing technologies. Which, given the broad nature of TSMC's claims, essentially covers all of GlobalFoundries' production lines in some form or another and would seemingly shutter GlobalFoundries manufacturing operations entirely. The company is also seeking "substantial monetary damages" for prior infringement.

Interestingly, if granted, the injunctions would be much broader than what GlobalFoundries asked for against TSMC back in August. Since the case involves US fabs and is being filed in the US (as well as Germany and Singapore), TSMC can seek remedies against GlobalFoundries directly, whereas GlobalFoundries has to seek import injunctions against TSMC's customers since TSMC's manufacturing takes place outside the US.

Without any doubts, TSMC’s decision to countersue GlobalFoundries was forced by GlobalFoundries suing TSMC earlier this year. And while neither side has been granted an injunction thus far, if either side is granted one before the two sides can come to an agreement on their own, then the repercussions for the tech industry as a whole would be devastating.

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Source: TSMC

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  • lejeczek - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    No it would not be devastating. It would only push & force each company to sit down at home(which I stress, at home) and work much harder to really innovate even more and to excel, be the best.
    And maybe, just maybe... that global corporate espionage & theft would stop or at least diminish.
  • close - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Like every other similar countersuit, the aim is to force the other party to sit down and negotiate an agreement. Litigating is expensive and if somehow both parties have some real claims sprinkled in there it's likely they'll just agree to avoid MAD.
  • Frenetic Pony - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Yah, what is is, 95% of all cases are settled out of court? Something like that.
  • surt - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Honestly patents in this area are a huge mess. Often there is only one, relatively obvious, way to do things. So you do it that way. And one side or another wins the patent race on various of these problem solutions, and could sue all competitors out of existence if it weren't for the fact that the competitor wins a few of the patent races too. Ultimately, everyone settles, the team with the biggest portfolio takes in some extra money.
  • Dragonstongue - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    NO devastating as injunction is a "global" shield (depending on HOW it is listed)

    if they order pay X X amount of time for the infringe is one thing...or...Huawei becomes another guest in "our house"

    take it how you will, but, potential millions of product infringe, pretty sure they cannot order buyers (me and you) from sending machines in, but, all other machines (let alone workstation/pro-end) become a very real "cease and desist all operations of)

    so yes, can be slap on wrist (like AMD vs Intel decade+ of damages .. less slap on wrist when have that much $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) or like 3DFX or Aurreal vs Creative etc etc etc.

    injuction pay fee is "fine" not so much when business and individual require/need those infringing products, then, the world "ends" (metaphorically as well as literally in some cases)
  • rahvin - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Your understanding of how the legal systems work is flawed. There will be no verdict that results in damages to third parties. The first and only solution is damages in the form of monetary compensation, no judge would ever even contemplate a solution like requiring businesses to cease using computers produced on that process because it would harm 3rd parties.

    As another poster has already noted, both companies likely hold key essential patents that the other cannot operate without a license to use. These lawsuits are nothing more than a negotiation tactic, given the GF opened with a lawsuit TSMC will play tough with a counter suit and after spending a few million dollars each on legal fees they will see the error of their ways and come to a settlement that results in cross-licensing each others patents and money changing hands to whoever has the bigger patents portfolio with "essential" patents.

    Afterwards if one or both of them is stupid they'll try to sue the other fab's and end up spending even more money on legal fees with the hope of getting back a few percent of those legal fees in license fees.
  • azfacea - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    "global corporate espionage & theft" what a pile of horseshit.
    GF didnt even have 14nm node if they didnt license from samsung. GF is a full half a decade behind TSMC. TSMC are not dumpster divers that would be US legal system that live off of other ppl's earning. and patent trolls like GF who couldnt compte at semi manufacturing have changed to patent troll bottom feeding
  • lejeczek - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Another one who thinks that semiconductor industry is 10yrs old.... Another one bites the... umph.. umps.. lots love, xxx.
  • OCedHrt - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Got redirected to

    While on Chrome on an Android device. Highly doubt my phone has malware. More likely an ad has malware.
  • Xyler94 - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    My last straw against not using an ad-blocker was because I visited Imgur and got redirected to a shithole website that tried to ransome my phone. Good thing Chrome on Android lets me clear all cache and such. My dad's iPhone also got hit like that, and literally deleting everything related to safari data in the options fixed his too.

    Advertising companies don't understand that it's not the ads we hate, it's the thousand of idiotic things we have to deal with because of bad advertisement... Idiot clickbaits, malware, redirects... if the advertising companies can come together and fix these issues, then maybe I wouldn't use ad-blocker. Until then, I won't support advertisements on the Web because of how intrusive and terrible they are...

    Sorry to sites like Anandtech who need the ad money to survive... but ad companies have done this to themselves...

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