GlobalFoundries sues IBM for misappropriating its trade secrets

GlobalFoundries has formally filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, accusing IBM of illicitly misappropriating its proprietary trade secrets and divulging pertinent information to Intel and the newly established Japanese semiconductor company Rapidus, while actively poaching its engineers. GlobalFoundries seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctions to prevent further unauthorized disclosures and curb improper talent acquisition practices.

GlobalFoundries fab France

GlobalFoundries asserts that after acquiring IBM’s microelectronics division in 2015, it gained ownership of the associated trade secrets, intellectual property, and confidential business information. However, IBM allegedly breached industry ethics and contractual stipulations by providing these trade secrets to its partners, potentially garnering “hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing income and other benefits.” IBM executives have described their collaboration with Intel and Rapidus as being based on decades of research results from the Albany Nanotechnology Center, yet the ownership of this research should have been transferred to GlobalFoundries eight years ago.

IBM is currently collaborating with Rapidus to develop 2nm process technology, and in 2021, established a partnership with Intel to develop various semiconductor-related technologies, including GAA transistor technology. It remains unclear what information IBM provided Intel and Rapidus throughout their collaborations, but it is plausible that some shared IP originated from the research achievements of its former microelectronics division. Another concern for GlobalFoundries is IBM’s poaching of engineers from its Fab 8 facility, which has become increasingly prevalent since IBM’s partnership with Rapidus.

IBM contends that GlobalFoundries’ allegations are baseless and suggests the lawsuit stems from GlobalFoundries’ decision in 2018 to alter its technology roadmap, abandoning advanced process development plans and divesting assets acquired from IBM. In response, IBM accused GlobalFoundries of breaching its contract in 2021, seeking $2.5 billion in damages.