Imagination Tech Starts 'Dispute Process' With Apple Over Chip Licensing Rights

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Long-time Apple chip supplier Imagination Technologies has started a "dispute resolution procedure" with Apple after failing to resolve a disagreement over licensing between the two companies (via Reuters).

Last month, Apple informed the British chipmaker that it plans to cease using its graphics technology in consumer devices over the next two years as it transitions to using its own in-house chips for products including iPhones and iPads.

imagination technologies logo
The news came as a major blow to Imagination, which receives a small royalty on every device sold, amounting to up to half of its revenue. The company's shares fell by 70 percent on the day and have barely recovered.

Imagination stated in April that it doubted Apple could go it alone without violating Imagination' patents, intellectual property and confidential information. On Thursday it said it had been unable to make satisfactory progress with Apple on an alternative commercial arrangements for the current license and royalty agreement.

"Imagination has been unable to make satisfactory progress with Apple to date regarding alternative commercial arrangements for the current licence and royalty agreement," it said.

"Imagination has therefore commenced the dispute resolution procedure under the licence agreement with a view to reaching an agreement through a more structured process. Imagination has reserved all its rights in respect of Apple's unauthorised use of Imagination's confidential information and Imagination’s intellectual property rights."

Analysts have predicted that Imagination will become loss-making by 2019 without any Apple royalties to fall back on, and that the firm will have to work out a cost-cutting strategy if it is to survive.

The company has revealed it is selling MIPS and Ensigma – two of its three major businesses – in an attempt to shore up cash, allowing for a renewed focus on its PowerVR graphics technology.

"While the Group has continued to invest in its MIPS and Ensigma businesses, it has now decided to actively market these businesses for sale, concentrate its resources on PowerVR and strengthen Imagination's balance sheet," it said.

Top Rated Comments

CarlJ Avatar
49 months ago
Imagination Technologies would appear to have two possible arguments here:

1. "We think Apple will use / is using information gained by working with us, in making their own chips". This could come at varying levels; if Apple used information they got under NDA with the promise that they wouldn't, that would be bad. If Apple learned useful bits from working with the Imagination, and Imagination's lawyers didn't get some sort of non-compete clause in the contract, that would seem to be on the lawyers, not Apple. But the bits I've heard so far sound more along the lines of "nobody could be smart enough to work out this technology except us". Well, Apple seems to have a good collection of very smart chip people, given what they've done with their A-series CPUs. And presumably this is something Apple has been experimenting with for a long time. They wouldn't have just one day said, "oh yeah, well, we're gonna make our own GPUs - with blackjack and hookers!"

2. "Nobody could possibly make GPUs without infringing our patents". If this is what Imagination has in mind, it would be a pretty much a textbook example of everything that's wrong with the patent process as it currently stands.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kaibelf Avatar
49 months ago

Apple always tread on the face of those giving it a leg up

Apple has decided to move on as a customer to another plan. Do you work for Imagination or something? They didn't sign a lifetime contract to be that company's client.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maflynn Avatar
49 months ago
If Apple has the means to make its own graphic chips, not sure what a dispute resolution will do if Apple is intent on divorcing.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
49 months ago
They're flailing. They are making the assumption that Apple *must* be violating their IP in some way by developing in house. Of course it is so early there's nothing to indicate this. This is the conundrum of having sales concentrated to a very large customer, it's a gravy train while the relationship exists but when the eventually cease to be a customer it is an existential problem. They better start marketing what they've already done for Apple hard and start selling into their competitors.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scoobysnack1 Avatar
49 months ago

Only Apple is entitled to having IP, right?

WHAT? Did you read what was written? He is saying Apple can and likely will develop their own IP. Unique IP.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PBG4 Dude Avatar
49 months ago

Imagination Technologies would appear to have two possible arguments here:

1. "We think Apple will use / is using information gained by working with us, in making their own chips". This could come at varying levels; if Apple used information they got under NDA with the promise that they wouldn't, that would be bad. If Apple learned useful bits from working with the Imagination, and Imagination's lawyers didn't get some sort of non-compete clause in the contract, that would seem to be on the lawyers, not Apple. But the bits I've heard so far sound more along the lines of "nobody could be smart enough to work out this technology except us". Well, Apple seems to have a good collection of very smart chip people, given what they've don't with their A-series CPUs. And presumably this is something Apple has been experimenting with for a long time. They wouldn't have just one day said, "oh yeah, well, we're gonna make our own GPUs - with blackjack and hookers!"

2. "Nobody could possibly make GPUs without infringing our patents". If this is what Imagination has in mind, it would be a pretty much a textbook example of everything that's wrong with the patent process as it currently stands.

Guess they forgot about Apple's acquisition of GPU maker Raycer Graphics in 1999.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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