Arm is suing Qualcomm over the Nuvia acquisition
Arm is suing one of its biggest partners, the company announced today. The action is against Qualcomm, and it’s related to the firm’s acquisition of Nuvia, saying that Qualcomm sought to transfer Nuvia’s licenses without its consent.
According to Arm, Nuvia’s licenses expired back in March, and Arm attempted to resolve the issue. That means that Qualcomm has allegedly broken its agreement.
What Arm is seeking here is for Qualcomm to effectively throw out any chip designs that have been made by Nuvia since the company was acquired. It’s a big ask, since Qualcomm acquired the firm for $1.4 billion.
“Arm takes pride in our role as innovator of the world’s most critical semiconductor IP and the billions of devices that run on Arm,” said Arm in a statement. “These technological achievements have required years of research and significant costs and should be recognized and respected. As an intellectual property company, it is incumbent upon us to protect our rights and the rights of our ecosystem. We will work vigorously to protect what is rightfully ours and we are confident that the courts will agree with us.”
“Arm’s lawsuit marks an unfortunate departure from its longstanding, successful relationship with Qualcomm,” Qualcomm responded in a statement to XDA. “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 CPU’s, and we are confident those rights will be affirmed.”
Nuvia is a key part of Qualcomm’s plans
The reason Qualcomm spent so much money is because Nuvia is a major, major part of its plans moving forward. With all of its current products, Qualcomm doesn’t design its own chips. It licenses the design from Arm, and those designs are usually announced earlier in the year.
Nuvia would allow Qualcomm to make proper custom Arm chips, only using the instruction set instead of the full design. This is how Apple already operates with its entire suite of products, which are currently shining a light on the market for how good custom Arm processors can be, and what’s lacking from the competition.
The Nuvia acquisition doesn’t just let Qualcomm compete with Apple though. It also helps in competing with Intel and AMD. All of these other major chip-vendors design their processors from the ground up. They’re not relying on a design from someone else. Owning that full stack puts Qualcomm on a level playing field.
Nuvia chips aren’t set to arrive until next year
When Qualcomm bought Nuvia, it said that the first custom chips – which are for laptops and aimed to compete with Apple’s M1 – would begin sampling with OEMs in the second half of 2022. OEMs do require 12-18 months with a chip before a laptop comes to market, so while the chip is well into development, it wouldn’t arrive until at least the second half of 2023. But because of the stage of development, the idea that Qualcomm might have to just throw it in the trash is a big deal.
Other companies, like MediaTek, are still licensing Arm’s designs, and MediaTek is one of several companies looking to enter the Windows laptop space once an exclusivity deal between Microsoft and Qualcomm expires. If it does turn out that Qualcomm can’t use its Nuvia design, it would surely be a win for MediaTek.
Qualcomm is holding its Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui this year, and this time it will be a little earlier, in November. We’re not likely to see a proper chip announcement based on Nuvia’s technology, no matter how this case turns out. It’s still too early.