Arm sues Qualcomm in a bid to destroy acquired Nuvia chip designs

Jimmy2x

Posts: 141   +11
Staff
Why it matters: Arm, Ltd. has filed suit against Qualcomm, claiming the wireless technology leader breached license agreements and committed trademark infringement following last year's acquisition of Nuvia. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Qualcomm, requiring them to destroy any designs developed under Nuvia's previous license agreements with Arm. A judgment in Arm's favor could stifle Qualcomm's latest attempts to re-enter the CPU design and manufacturing space.

The claim stems from Nuvia's special architecture licenses obtained from Arm in 2019, which allowed the startup to create Arm-compatible processor cores. According to Arm, rights were non-transferrable, making them unusable by Qualcomm following its acquisition of Nuvia in 2021. Formal license termination in 2022 required Qualcomm to destroy and cease using any technology resulting from the previously existing agreements.

Qualcomm's general counsel, Ann Chaplin, has refuted these accusations. She states the company is well within its rights to continue its CPU design efforts — efforts that have been ongoing since before the Nuvia deal.

"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."

Despite the dust-up, the fact remains that Qualcomm still has existing agreements in place with Arm. Currently, the company can design custom cores thanks to an Armv9 license in place with Arm. Additionally, its Snapdragon line of mobile processors now uses standard Arm-designed cores as part of its architecture.

The relationship between Qualcomm and Arm has been on the rocks since the Nuvia acquisition. Sources close to Qualcomm speculate that the buyout and desire to re-enter the CPU market is directly related to its view of Arm's stagnating technology and lack of innovation. As a result, Qualcomm acquired the Santa Clara-based silicon designer, intending to create a competing line of products while reducing its reliance on Arm's technology offerings.

The lawsuit could squash Qualcomm's ability to immediately compete with Arm, Intel, AMD, and other processor designers. A Qualcomm earnings call earlier this year claimed its laptop competitor to Apple's M-class processors was on track for release in late 2023. Based on Nuvia's design, the CPU's availability would undoubtedly be negatively affected if the court upheld Arm's claims.

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Nanochip

Posts: 109   +153
How is Qualcomm “competing with ARM” if it’s custom chips are based on the ARM ISA and will be marketed as ARM?

Also, do you consider Apple A-series and M-series chips to be ARM competitors?

Finally, I hope Qualcomm and ARM settle this beef and that Qualcomm can deliver high performance ARM chips that keep the pressure on AMD and Intel x86_64.

What apple did with m1 is amazing, and I hope other ARM vendors enter the ring. Performance per watt is an important metric. And more competent and stiff competition will pressure AMD/intel and will be good for us consumers.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,305   +953
How is Qualcomm “competing with ARM” if it’s custom chips are based on the ARM ISA and will be marketed as ARM?

Also, do you consider Apple A-series and M-series chips to be ARM competitors?

Finally, I hope Qualcomm and ARM settle this beef and that Qualcomm can deliver high performance ARM chips that keep the pressure on AMD and Intel x86_64.

What apple did with m1 is amazing, and I hope other ARM vendors enter the ring. Performance per watt is an important metric. And more competent and stiff competition will pressure AMD/intel and will be good for us consumers.

Apple pay ARM - Apple is using the ARM knowhow to build on
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,305   +953
In NZ we are all one big family - our Prime Minister says it's so.
So we only need one Netflex, Disney Plus etc sub for whole country

This legal situation is not unqiue - was a similar story last year - can't remember off-hand

This is really why lawyers who right up these contracts - should get big bucks - this is entirely forseeable in the let's get bigger mega corp world .

Plus may depend on how Nuvia's legal status - ie has it been dissolved or is it still an existing company now just owned by Nvidia .

Plus you have that thing a lot of Americans hate - what if a Chinese company brought Nuvia or another company to get "RIGHTS" to mine, IP, water quota etc etc
 
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rmcrys

Posts: 292   +237
Qualcomm has an architectural license too. They’re not competing with ARM they’re bringing ARM to the mass market.

You have to see all the picture:
- a license to use ARM ISA is much cheaper than to buy ARM designs
- ARM earns a lot of money but they spend a huge amount also
- as ARM since some years from now builds non interesting designs, a lot of brands just want the cheapest solution: ARM compatibility
- ARM itself is in danger of most do the same as Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung

ATM only Apple is in another league, Qualcomm and Samsung own designs are no big changes and don't stand out.
 

Nanochip

Posts: 109   +153
You have to see all the picture:
- a license to use ARM ISA is much cheaper than to buy ARM designs
- ARM earns a lot of money but they spend a huge amount also
- as ARM since some years from now builds non interesting designs, a lot of brands just want the cheapest solution: ARM compatibility
- ARM itself is in danger of most do the same as Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung

ATM only Apple is in another league, Qualcomm and Samsung own designs are no big changes and don't stand out.
Nuvia was supposed to stand out… was supposedly going to make the arm platform look great. but the world may never know anymore, as arm wants Qualcomm to destroy the Nuvia IP.
 

mosu

Posts: 566   +200
If not for their chip designs, why would Qualcomm buy Nuvia? They should keep Nuvia as an active entity and "buy" the designs, so they would not breach anything.
 

poltevo

Posts: 45   +27
Regardless of how right Arm are here, it’s a bad for the ARM instruction set. RISC-V is waiting in the wings to capitalise on these sort of legal disputes and has been growing steadily. It’s still tiny, of course, compared to both x86 and ARM, but the momentum is there.
 

rmcrys

Posts: 292   +237
Regardless of how right Arm are here, it’s a bad for the ARM instruction set. RISC-V is waiting in the wings to capitalise
You're right, but only for servers. ARM is in billions of devices, specially on the most important ones (Apple new generation, all Smartphones and tablets (excluding some x86) including Android and iOS, cameras, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc). So it will stay like that for many years now.
 

wujj123456

Posts: 79   +49
Qualcomm has an architectural license too. They’re not competing with ARM they’re bringing ARM to the mass market.
Even if it's same ALA license, ARM can choose to charge differently based on client and purpose. Small companies can't pay a lot, but could benefit ARM for a more robust ecosystem, so it's reasonable for ARM to offer cheaper licenses with more restricted usage. However, ARM probably want Qualcomm to pay more. Letting such transfers happen through acquisition without ability to control it is certainly a business risk, especially for the future if their licensees learn how to game the system.

It's really just business decisions, not right or wrong kind of stuff here. Thus all details are in the contract language we don't get to see (yet or forever).