In an unexpected move, TSMC filed a lawsuit late Monday against GlobalFoundries, its rival foundry rival, and accused the manufacturer of patent infringement. In the case, in response to a similar case brought against TSF by GlobalFoundries just over a month ago, the world's largest semiconductor contractor is accusing its competitor of illegally using its intellectual property in its various photolithographic processes. In order to prevent what they see as ongoing violations, TSMC also asks the courts for a lawsuit against GlobalFoundries, which will substantially stop the latter production lines.
Without disclosing the exact patents involved, TSMC claims that GlobalFoundries has infringed as many as 25 of its patents. According to the company, these patents cover the following technologies:
- FinFET design;
- Shallow trench isolation methods;
- Dual patterning methods, advanced sealing rings and door constructions, and innovative contact seal bearing designs; [1
- Double patterning methods, advanced sealing rings;
- Port structures and innovative contact etch stop layer design.
These patents apparently cover most of GlobalFoundries modern processes, including their 40nm, 28nm, 22nm, 14nm and 12nm node processes technologies.
In its complaint, TSMC requires injunctions against GlobalFoundries and asks 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 one form or another and would seem to completely hide GlobalFoundries' production operations. The company also applies for "substantial financial damages" for advance infringement.
Interestingly, if granted, the injunctions would be much broader than what GlobalFoundries requested against TSMC back in August. Since the case involves U.S. manufacturers and is being filed in the United States (as well as Germany and Singapore), TSMC may seek remedies against GlobalFoundries directly, while GlobalFoundries must seek injunctions against TSMC's customers since TSMC's manufacturing takes place outside the United States.  Undoubtedly, TSMC's decision to count GlobalFoundries was forced by GlobalFoundries sued TSMC earlier this year. And even though neither side has been granted permission so far, if neither side is granted one before the two sides can reach agreement on their own, the consequences for the technology industry as a whole would be devastating.