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TSMC makes IP but denies it is in IP business

Posted: 22 May 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IP blocks? TSMC IP business? TSMC foundry?

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC), the world's largest foundry company, is developing IP blocks and licensing them out, but it is not in the IP licensing business, according to Charles Byers, director of worldwide brand management and corporate marketing.

Just about the only way that statement might make sense is if TSMC is providing payment-free licenses for circuit blocks it develops and the licenses are being put in place only to protect TSMC-developed technology from misuse but not to generate revenue. TSMC's protestations that it is not in the IP business would carry the greatest weight if the company did all its support engineering for free and made the results freely available to second and third parties with the aim of recouping the effort in its price per wafer as it makes it foundry sales.

"We are not talking about the economic arrangements. But there is flexibility in the licensing model," said Byers, speaking during the IET/FSA Semiconductor Forum in Paris on May 14.

Moves at TSMC to support its leading-edge processes with tuned, silicon-proven libraries has caused some concern within the industry that TSMC was moving into what had become an independent market. This was despite assurances from TSMC that library and circuit block work was being done to ensure accuracy of design and give foundry customers the best chances of right-first-time silicon on leading-edge manufacturing processes.

Despite statements from Byers that TSMC was working with third-party IP providers and not against them, the chairman of the IET/FSA Semiconductor Forum referred in his opening remarks to one foundry changing its business model to include design as part of its offering.

Byers responded: "We are strengthening our design collaboration for critical sub-circuits, building blocks. They need to be carefully characterized, validated, co-optimized. We will share these sub-circuit building blocks with our library partners." Byers added: "We do not see IP and libraries as a revenue stream. It is not TSMC's intention to enter the IP and library market."

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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