Qualcomm and Nuvia, a startup that Arm purchased in 2021, are being sued by Arm on the grounds that they broke the licenses that allow them to use Arm’s CPU designs and architecture. The argument put up by Arm is that the licenses it granted to Nuvia prior to its acquisition are no longer valid.
If Arm prevails in its lawsuit, Qualcomm may be required to erase whatever work it has done utilizing the specific licenses at issue, which would be a major blow for Qualcomm’s plans to use Nuvia’s technology to develop desktop and server chips.
Qualcomm has been open about its aims and the role that Nuvia’s acquisition will play in achieving them. In an interview earlier this year, its CEO, Cristiano Amon, stated, “As soon as I got named CEO, I made the acquisition of a company called Nuvia because we wanted to have the best CPU team in the market.” He added that “you should expect Qualcomm aiming to take the leadership position in performance. We’re going to have to execute it. Our first product was going to sample next year. It’s going to be commercial in 2023. We’ve been public about it, and people will be able to measure it.”
Nuvia received licenses to use Arm’s “off-the-shelf” processor designs as well as permission to create its own designs using Arm’s architecture, according to Arm’s 2019 complaint.
Arm also provided the startup with “substantial, crucial, and individualized support” for its efforts to develop server-grade processors.
Arm receives revenue from license fees and royalties from the sale of goods that incorporate its technology, such as the computers made by Nvidia that employ Arm processors or the MacBooks and iPhones that use Apple Silicon. (Engineers who previously worked on the A-series semiconductors utilized in iPhones and iPads formed Nuvia.)
It appears that the issues started after Qualcomm paid $1.4 billion to buy Nuvia. The case claims that when Qualcomm said it intended to employ the startup’s technology in multiple devices, Arm informed Qualcomm that it could not use Nuvia’s licensing without Arm’s consent. Arm’s attorneys assert that the company attempted to reach a deal for Qualcomm to use Nuvia’s licenses for “more than a year.”
Those efforts appeared to be futile because Arm claims that in February 2022, it cancelled the licenses and informed Qualcomm that it could not make use of any designs created using them. However, the business worries that Qualcomm has continued to create processors using the licenses and intends to sell them.
The general counsel for Qualcomm, Ann Chaplin, said in a statement to another media outlet that “Arm has no right, contractual or otherwise, to attempt to interfere with Qualcomm’s or NUVIA’s innovations,” and that “Arm’s complaint ignores the fact that Qualcomm has broad, well-established license rights covering its custom-designed CPU’s, and we are confident that rights will be affirmed.”
According to rumors, Qualcomm has been looking to sell server CPUs to businesses like Amazon. A different news source reported earlier this month that the company is specifically “seeking customers for a product stemming from last year’s purchase of chip startup Nuvia,” despite the fact that it does have its own Arm licenses that are unrelated to Nuvia (it was manufacturing laptop chips before it acquired the company).”