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ARM sues Qualcomm, alleging its subsidiary breached a licensing agreement

It wants a court to order the destruction of certain CPU core designs.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

ARM has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm and subsidiary Nuvia over alleged trademark infringement and a breach of some license agreements. It wants certain Nuvia CPU designs to be destroyed, as well as "fair compensation."

Qualcomm bought Nuvia last year to leverage the latter's custom processor cores for its chips. According to the filing (which was obtained by The Register), Nuvia used licensed ARM tech to build the cores. ARM claims Qualcomm did not obtain the necessary permission to transfer and use the licenses it granted to Nuvia.

ARM asserts that Qualcomm's acquisition of the company resulted in Nuvia breaching its licenses. As such, ARM terminated those licenses earlier this year. It added that, as a result, Qualcomm and Nuvia are obliged to stop using and destroy any ARM-based technology that was developed under the licenses. Additionally, ARM argues that Qualcomm plans to continue using its trademarks to market and sell products containing Nuvia cores without having permission to do so.

"Because Qualcomm attempted to transfer Nuvia licenses without ARM’s consent, which is a standard restriction under ARM’s license agreements, Nuvia’s licenses terminated in March 2022," ARM said in a statement. "Before and after that date, ARM made multiple good faith efforts to seek a resolution. In contrast, Qualcomm has breached the terms of the ARM license agreement by continuing development under the terminated licenses. ARM was left with no choice other than to bring this claim against Qualcomm and Nuvia to protect our IP, our business, and to ensure customers are able to access valid ARM-based products.”

This is a significant development as Qualcomm is one of its key customers. Qualcomm built its name on ARM-based processors, after all. And adding to the confusion, Qualcomm still has its own license with ARM, under which it can build custom cores with the latter's architecture. It's not clear what overlap, if any, might exist between the licensing agreements made to Qualcomm and Nuvia.

"ARM's lawsuit marks an unfortunate departure from its longstanding, successful relationship with Qualcomm. ARM has no right, contractual or otherwise, to attempt to interfere with Qualcomm's or Nuvia's innovations," Ann Chaplin, general counsel of Qualcomm, told Engadget in a statement. "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."