IP protection on an SoC

By: Doug S (foo.delete@this.bar.bar), April 24, 2019 10:36 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
If you license your design to be put onto someone else's SoC, would there be potential concerns about IP theft? Specifically what I'm thinking about is whether there's any chance Qualcomm could license their modem design to Apple for inclusion on their SoCs. I just don't know in what form an IP block designed for inclusion into someone else's SoC would take, and if leaves IP exposed in any way.

Even ignoring IP concerns this was never an option in the past - Apple and Qualcomm have never used the same fab process at the same time. Now they will be - barring unforeseen problems they will use TSMC's N5 process for the A14 shipping in fall 2020 iPhones, and Qualcomm will also use N5 for their Snapdragon SoCs shipping in early 2021 Androids.

So, theoretically at least, Qualcomm would have an SoC designed for N5 that could be included in the A14 SoC. But WOULD Qualcomm ever do this? Given that they know Apple is working on their own modem, they wouldn't do anything that would lead to even the slightest possibility of IP theft (and Apple would probably prefer to avoid a situation where an accusation would be possible) so this may be pure fantasy. Which is why I'm asking the experts here who would know whether this would be more similar to handing over encrypted firmware to a customer or dangerously close to handing source code to a customer you don't trust.

While this has obvious benefits for Apple in terms of greater integration and potentially a bit of power savings, there would have to be some benefits to Qualcomm as well. Do they sell standalone modems other than to Apple? If they avoided the overhead of that design by passing off work they've already done for Snapdragon (assuming the schedule worked since Apple begins shipping several months earlier) there would be a little savings but presumably they'd want more money from Apple for the 'favor'. The other possible advantage for Qualcomm is that it would eliminate one of the incentives for Apple to design their own modem. Even if all they do is cause Apple to push that timeline out a few years by making it less urgent, it is a win for Qualcomm.
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IP protection on an SoCDoug S2019/04/24 10:36 AM
  IP protection on an SoCdmcq2019/04/24 01:29 PM
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