Qualcomm is accusing its processor IP supplier ARM of attempting to interfere with its internal design operation after the takeover of startup Nuvia.
This marks a very different approach under new CEO Cristiano Amon (above), who took over from retiring CEO Steve Mollenkopf in June 2021. The two companies have had a longstanding partnership using architectural licenses to develop new versions of ARM cores for the SnapDragon range of chipsets.
The lawsuit in the US comes as Qualcomm is set to ship test chips of the Nuvia designs to partners for high performance notebook PCs running Windows on the ARM architecture.
ARM is suing Qualcomm over the use of architectural licenses that were owned by Nuvia as a startup and Qualcomm continued to use after the acquisition completed in March. Qualcomm believes its existing architectural licences covers the continuing work. The lawsuit, if successful, would prevent Qualcomm and its customers using the ARM trademark on products and require certain designs to be destroyed.
“ARM’s lawsuit marks an unfortunate departure from its longstanding, successful relationship with Qualcomm,” said a spokesperson for Qualcomm “ARM has no right, contractual or otherwise, to attempt to interfere with Qualcomm’s or Nuvia’s innovations. ARM’s complaint ignores the fact that Qualcomm has broad, well-established license rights covering its custom-designed CPUs, and we are confident those rights will be affirmed.”
This does however highlight the challenges of effective due diligence in acquisitions. Nuvia’s CEO also faced legal action from previous employer Apple, where he was the leading CPU designer behind the M1 processor, over IP. This could also reflect the increasing impact of the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture which is offering an alternative to ARM.
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