The chip technology firm was one of Qualcomm’s most important technology partners that Qualcomm relied on for years after Qualcomm stopped work on designing its own custom computing cores
Arm Ltd, a chip technology firm owned by Softbank Group Corp, said on Wednesday it has sued Qualcomm Inc and Nuvia Inc a chip design firm recently acquired by Qualcomm for breach of license agreements and trademark infringement.
The chip technology firm is seeking an injunction that would require Qualcomm to destroy the designs developed under Nuvia’s license agreements with Arm, which Arm said could not be transferred to Qualcomm without Arm approval. Nuvia was acquired by Qualcomm for $1.4 billion last year.
The lawsuit represents a major break between Qualcomm and Arm. The chip technology firm was one of Qualcomm’s most important technology partners that Qualcomm relied on for years after Qualcomm stopped work on designing its own custom computing cores.
But, with some inside Qualcomm complaining privately that the chip technology firm’s slackening pace of innovation is causing Qualcomm’s chips to fall behind Apple’s processors in performance, the two companies have been at odds for years.
To reboot its efforts to make custom computing cores that would be different from standard Arm designs used by rivals such as Taiwan chip designer MediaTek Inc, Qualcomm bought Nuvia – a firm founded by former Apple chip architect.
It said the new technology at the time was planned to use for its smartphone, laptop and automotive processors. To re-establish a leading position in chip performance after several years of high-profile patent licensing litigation with rival Apple and regulatory authorities, the deal marked a big push by Qualcomm.
Nuvia executives and Apple have been at loggerheads as Qualcomm and Apple have resolved disputes over Qualcomm’s patent royalties. Apple sued Nuvia’s Chief Executive Gerard Williams III in 2019, alleging Williams recruited Apple employees to Nuvia while he was still employed at Apple. Apple did not sue Nuvia itself, nor did it allege any intellectual property theft.
To lessen its reliance on the chip technology firm, the deal was seen as a way for Qualcomm. While Nuvia’s cores use Arm’s underlying architecture but are custom designs, most of Qualcomm’s chips have used computing cores licensed directly from Arm.
For Qualcomm, using more custom core designs – a move that Apple has also made – could lower some licensing costs to Arm in the short term and make it easier to move to a rival architecture in the longer term.
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