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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  • Santoval - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    This is only counter-suit #1 against GloFo. Soon the clients of TSMC that GloFo sued will also counter-sue.. My guess is that all of them have a range of patents that GloFo probably infringed as well. In the end, because GloFo sued so many companies they might end up paying them fines and royalties for patents they had no idea they had infringed..
  • Techie2 - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    This is what a judicial system is for to determine fact from fiction and resolve business and patent disputes. Hopefully the judge is a techie who can render a proper verdict.
  • rganeshkumar - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Any info which law firms representing either of these firms?
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Bit of repetition in the bullet points - the final three are just the second two, but split up.

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