back to article We can go our own Huawei! Arm says it can flog chip blueprints to Chinese giant despite US trade embargo

Chip designer Arm says it will be able to continue licensing its blueprints to Huawei five months after it would have had to stop working with the Chinese comms equipment giant. Softbank-owned Arm – which has offices in the United States, UK, and elsewhere in the world – on Friday confirmed the news to The Register that it …

  1. Richard Boyce

    Applying sanctions is costly to both sides

    So I guess ARM will be making very sure that they exclude US input from future efforts, even if US sanctions are lifted. They won't be the only ones.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: Applying sanctions is costly to both sides

      Softbank is Japanese, and, I am very sure, well aware of who the new King is. And it isn't the US.

      (Also, imagine how the Japanese see Trump. He's like the exact antithesis of everything Japanese culture stands for.)

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Applying sanctions is costly to both sides

      The same with the current Adobe debacle.

      The US Government is showing the world that they shouldn't put any trust in products or services coming out of the USA.

    3. David Shaw

      Re: Applying sanctions is costly to both sides [YT "Bomb Bomb Bomb" is a decade-old parody of The Beach Boys Barbara-Ann, but might soon apply]

      Hoping for an end point of sanctions, as cold sanctions are simply 'economic warfare' = at some point gets hot?

  2. DougS Silver badge

    That's probably not strictly true

    Apple was involved in the design/spec of ARMv8 - that's why they were able to introduce the first ARMv8 CPU in a phone before ARM had their own core design complete. They would had to have the design already underway for at least a year before the spec itself was even final - it was only 23 months from ARM's release of final spec to Apple shipping the iPhone 5S containing the first ARMv8 CPU.

    However, Apple would have had to sign over any IP claims involved as part of the collaboration to ARM, so while "US origin" might not be strictly true what matters here is "US ownership" of which there would be none.

    They've continued to be involved in the minor revs of ARMv8, as I'm sure another US company Qualcomm has as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's probably not strictly true

      Bzzzzzt. Wrong.

    2. Psmo Bronze badge

      Re: That's probably not strictly true

      Quote from TFA:

      "Arm has communicated this to the appropriate US government offices, and we continue to be in compliance with the US Commerce Department guidelines"

      So yes, true to the precision required by relevant law.

    3. BillG

      Re: That's probably not strictly true

      Also, the Cortex-M4F (officially "Cortex-M4 with FPU)" was partially designed by STMicroelectronics (a French/Italian company) not in Rousset, but instead in an ST U.S. design facility.

      The ST situation with the M4F was same as Apple's with the ARMv8, ST had to sign over M4F IP claims to Arm; however, ST owns very valuable former Mostek patents (a U.S. company aquired by ST) that include putting SRAM on the same die as a CPU core and quietly collects royalties from various semiconductor companies on that, including Arm.

      The arrangements ST have with Arm, and Apple have with Arm, are not completely public. It's possible that with ST's 100-ton patent portfolio each time you buy an M4F ST gets a cut.

      Softbank-owned Arm – which has offices in the United States, UK, and elsewhere in the world...

      Softbank is based in Japan. Doesn't matter where other offices are, only the present headquarters & IP design location matter when it comes to the processor IP ownership equation.

      I'm involved in all of this right now. There's some public drama here, but in reality there are legal workarounds and it's much ado about nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's probably not strictly true

        ST's SRAM on same die as CPU patents come from INMOS and not Mostek (comes from original transputer design) ,,,, ST got the righr to manufacture x86 chips from Mostek (back when Z80 was ahead of 8080 Intel signed cross licensing agreements with Mostek which meant years later Cyrix could sell x86 clones because they got ST to manufacture them)

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Apple was involved in the design/spec of ARMv8

      AIUI the first Arm knew about Apple doing a 64-bit Arm-compatible CPU was when everyone else found out about it. There wasn't exactly a lot of this 'input' as you say at the time.


      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Apple was involved in the design/spec of ARMv8

        They didn't know Apple would be ready to ship phones containing an ARMv8 CPU that soon, but they knew Apple was working on it. No one can go from clean sheet to shipping CPUs in 23 months, Apple obviously had access to the ARMv8 ISA well before its public release. Apple already received their first samples of the A14 from TSMC, which will ship in iPhones next year, a month ago. It takes over three years at the absolute minimum from clean sheet to shipping in phones.

        There is a fair amount of collaboration between ARM and its architectural licensees on the design of the ISAs (see above for a guy involved in this with ARM & ST) because they want to serve the needs of their customer base to be successful.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Apple was involved in the design/spec of ARMv8

          By the time this argument has worked its way through the US court system the design's going to be obsolete. That's even assuming the Feds want to try it on in the first place. You can be 100% sure that nobody in the actual business is going to be too helpful (if there is the occasional oddball that thinks that kneecapping the company that they work for is a great idea then they can expect relatively curtailed career prospects). The damage from this Entity List fiasco is currently working its way through the financials of major semiconductor suppliers in the US and the effects are not pretty for investors.

          You also need to remember that the whole Entity List thing relies on Huawei being a 'danger to national security'. If this gets into the courts then the Administration is going to have to justify such a designation, something that's going to be difficult since it already regards this company as a bargaining chip in its trade talks with China (...and as said so repeatedly -- someone really needs to take Trump's phone away from him.....)

  3. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Non US origin...

    The wild west is shooting itself in both feet these days.

    Yee haa.

  4. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    In the meantime ...

    Huawei has spent several months presumably working on, at the very least, contingency plans. Other non-US companies have seen the risk. RISC-V has been moving away from the US.

    I wonder how all that might affect the future of chips?

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: In the meantime ...

      You can easily get proper ones in the UK, just stay out of American fast food joints.

      Even Trump's trade deal probably won't force us to accept salt and fat laden batter with a bit of potato somewhere in the middle. I hope.

      Semiconductors now...pity we allowed almost all our capacity to be shut down.

      1. EastFinchleyite

        Re: In the meantime ...

        Intel chips should perhaps be referred to as "Intel fries" in deference to our US masters. That is probably why they need to have belting great cooling fans and heatsinks attached.

        1. 404 Silver badge

          Re: In the meantime ...

          Rejoice! Intel's Gen 12 cpus won't have the meltdown/Spectre stuff baked in! Hit up Dell the other day, 10th/11th gens still affected by it - did so after asking why there's a BIOS update damn near every month... /rambling rage...

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: In the meantime ...

        Where do you get proper ones ?

        All the ones I've tried recently have a disgusting tough outer coating (no, not the US-style crispy skin) caused by cooking them in vegetable oil.

        Proper chips are fried in beef fat.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: In the meantime ...

          The restaurant attached to a local farm shop uses their own beef. Their steak frites after they've slaughtered a cow are superb. And, in fact, Lidl now sells oven chips with beef fat, and they are not bad. Not as good as the real thing but OK if you need a quick meal without going out.

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I said back in May when the ban came in that it might make more financial sense for ARM to close their US office and start to supply Huawei again than loose out on selling chip designs to one of the worlds largest phone manufacturers.

    While the ban is obviously affecting Huawei financially, its also hurting all the US companies that supplied Huawei. And it maybe that even if this ban is lifted in a few months. Huawei will have found other non-US suppliers for certain components and won't go back to their original US suppliers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...will have found other non-US suppliers for certain components and won't go back to their original US suppliers."

      As will every other non US company with any common sense.

  6. martinusher Silver badge

    We obviously never learned our lesson

    The US has been doing this type of thing for decades which is why it can impose bans seemingly overnight. I first became aware of them back in the early 80s when they were directed at preventing Russia acquiring processor technology. It resulted in some ludicrous situations such as demanding we got export licenses for Japanese calculator memory packs to transfer them from the UK to Belgium. More ominously I was working at a facility that used a lot of microwave technology at the time, equipment that was all purchased from companies in California pre-Reagan. Once this crap started happening I noticed that the same technology for a new facility was all Japanese. The Golden Rule became "only buy stuff from the US if you absolutely have no other choice".

    Then came the end of the Cold War, Globalization and the various technology Gold Rushes. We all forgot about this but obviously the bureaucratic structures that were developed back then didn't forget. Now they have a new role in life -- an ever expanding list of sanctions, bans, entities and what-have-you. The world has moved on, though -- US technology is still useful but for most products its now non-essential (and as this article points out, what exactly is US technology?).

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: We obviously never learned our lesson

      We had a lightning strike at our Isle of Wight facility in the late 80s/early 90s. 100s of dead DEC VT100 terminals, but due to the US trade restrictions, we couldn't just dispose of them, these dumb terminals were classified as hi-tech that the Russians shouldn't be able to get their hands on (yes, really, a dumb terminal). So the company and its insurers had to pay for the things to be crushed to a pulp and witnessed by a government official and the certificate supplied to the overseers of the trade embargo.

    2. Any other name

      Re: We obviously never learned our lesson

      It resulted in some ludicrous situations such as demanding we got export licenses for Japanese calculator memory packs ...

      Indeed. I do distinctly remember having to apply for the US State Department's permission to access a Japanese computer (one of the NEC SX models, forget which one) located in Switzerland ... while at the same time being given access to a system about as powerful built by a NEC's US competitor (which has since ceased to exist, with its carcass dismembered and resold multiple times over) and located in the USA, no questions asked.

      Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Just a second

    "Uncle Sam remains convinced that the vendor's close ties to the Chinese state serious advance in 5G technology make the manufacturer a massive espionage and surveillance competition threat"

    And Uncle Sam is right, and Uncle Sam can also shut the fuck up. This is Capitalism At Work, and you, after having spent the past eighty years screaming the apology of Capitalism with a capital "C", have no right to be against it when you're not the one reaping the rewards.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Just a second

      And Uncle Sam is right, and Uncle Sam can also shut the fuck up. This is Capitalism At Work, and you, after having spent the past eighty years screaming the apology of Capitalism with a capital "C", have no right to be against it when you're not the one reaping the rewards.

      As a libertarian, I often have to point out that "laissez-faire" goes both ways. Just as it means you should run your own business as needed and how you see fit, you are *ALSO* completely free to have your business fail, without expectation of bailouts or protectionist legislation (implemented domestically or foreign). Too many corporations here want to only get the first part of that.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Just a second

      This is not about competition. I know, unpopular opinion, but it's not. It started from real concerns in some security circles across multiple countries that Huawei might actually spy for the Chinese government. These people recommended code checks, which revealed some worrying things but didn't reveal spying. And now the security people have mostly dropped their concerns. The only reason this is still a thing is that some American politicians realized that "security reasons" sounds better than "hostage in a trade war". But it's not about Huawei competing with other companies on comms tech, it's about wanting the trade balance to switch. That's an issue so important to the current American administration that they'll sacrifice anything to get it, and they're not above manufacturing another bargaining chip to try and add some stress.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If all it takes its to have the ip owned by a none American company, I would think 99% of the larger companies can carry on as normal. Don't most of them have their ip owned by off shore companies to be more tax lean?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Well, that would be a case of the biter bit, because US companies do indeed profit handsomely from special vehicles for IP. I suspect the case here may be a little more complicated but transferring the IP to an non-US domiciled company would seem to be a possible solution. The thing you have to factor in is that US protectionism is pretty blanket in requiring a certain amount of US based input in any product. There are ways around this using countries with the right kind of trade deals, but expect this to add more friction (aka higher prices) for US trade.

      This is what you get with an administration that is big on gesture, low on policy and almost non-existent on detail.

  9. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

    This is one of the reasons we are fully ITAR-free (i.e. the U.S. based state/commerce/DOD department directives for US-based dual use technologies!) and use NO U.S. technology AT ALL in our corporate designs! EVERYTHING in our 60 GHz combined 128-bits wide GaAs CPU/GPU/DSP super-server processor chip is completely of Canadian design and origin!

    Not that we had any choice in the matter, because the underlying technology REQUIRED US to build from scratch and completely the ground up all software, systems, instruction set, assembler code structures, GaAs substrate building/layering hardware, beam etching hardware, etc. Even the cross-compilers, assemblers and BIOS/firmware are fully custom-built in Canada and CANADIAN designed/coded! EVERYTHING in our system is of Canadian design and source!

    So if you need a exportable super-server chip design that is now at 1.2 PetaFLOPs, we have it in our internal stock!


    The U.S. is starting to get REAL ANNOYING is trying to tell us what to do, so we internally have told them to STICK IT !!! We're Canadian! NOT American! We will ship and sell our stuff to who the heck WE SAY !!!!! NOT what the U.S. says! We designed and Built it! We even built our etchers and own OS and APPS to make it on -- That's how far we went to ENSURE we are fully CANADIAN designed and sourced!



    OH CANADA! True North Strong and FREE!!!


    1. Chris G Silver badge


      I'll just leave this here for you:

      Don't imagine for one minute that it has been consigned to history, it will have been pulled out dusted off and revised periodically ever since.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        It's a pity the Canadians won't be able to burn the White House on the 200th anniversary of the last time.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          It's a pity the Canadians won't be able to burn the White House on the 200th anniversary of the last time.

          I think they've already missed that date by a few years

          And the current White House would be much harder to burn (you *do* know the current WH only dates from the early 1950's. All that's left of the original structure is the outside masonry).

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        I enjoyed reading that, but it's a little weird to imply that something of the kind would be considered today. For one thing, no matter how weird the American government gets, they wouldn't need to militarily occupy Canada to express their displeasure or for any other reason. For another, I think it might be useful to consider this section from the page: "Many of the war plans were extremely unlikely given the state of international relations in the 1920s, and were entirely in keeping with the military planning of other nation-states. Often, junior military officers were given the task of updating each plan to keep them trained and busy (especially in the case of War Plan Crimson, the invasion of Canada)." Militaries waste their time on myriad pointless researches and games, but that doesn't stop a lot of those activities being completely pointless.

    2. John Savard Silver badge

      Excuse me? You have a 60 GHz chip for sale that's made from Gallium Arsenide? And it has a performance measured in petaflops? Why haven't I seen it offered for sale, and why haven't I seen news stories about this exciting development?

      1. Benson's Cycle

        I think the thing is so fast his post exceeded the speed of light and comes from about 20 years in the future, if NASAs forecasts for GaAs development are correct.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        I was working on a high speed bipolar process in the 80s and found a design for 600 gate 16 bit processor and laid it out for amusement and simulation. If would have been the fastest processor in the world at the time : a 2.4ghz clock version would have run at less than 10w. The memory for the same would however have taken that for every 1/2k!

        I have no doubt you could make a 60Ghz GaAs chip with ease but providing the RAM for it is going to be very very very expensive as it will be a while for the demand for it to reach a point where it is worth mass producing it.

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    Unintended Consequence

    It's a good thing that Intel has been trying to get smartphone makers to use x86 chips instead of ARM chips. That way, it will still be possible for smartphone makers to stay in business after ARM gets added to the Entity List for daring to sell to Huawei, and companies that trade with the U.S. are no longer able to buy things from ARM.

    So instead of the end result being that China can't use ARM, it will be that everyone else, or at least the U.S., can't use ARM.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: Unintended Consequence

      ARM licenses, it does not manufacture.

      And nothing will be allowed to get in the way of US companies using Chinese subcontractors, so long as most of the profit stays in the US.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Unintended Consequence

      Battery life could be interesting!

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Unintended Consequence

      I think people missed the irony in your post. Intel-based mobile phones? Not even Intel believes that any more. Mind you, the way US industrial and trade, ahem, policy is headed there won't be any need for electronic communications as it's back to the 1890s…

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Unintended Consequence

        >Intel-based mobile phones?

        It is winter up here, I wouldn't mind a combined phone/hand warmer

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it weren't for that I have worked at ARM...

    If it weren't for that I have worked at ARM and know how slow and strange their legal department can be, I'd be surprised it took them that long. It can't take the engineers long to go through the git logs and the company structure data to work out which versions have had no US design input, and start on non-US rewrites of commits made from the US.

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: If it weren't for that I have worked at ARM...

      I thought the problem was that some of their stuff was tested in the U. S..

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's just outsource the development

    See no reason why not. So much manufacturing is in China why not just outsource the development as well.

    US staff could just work remotely to a different office and for an "independent" company.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why I like the RISC-V designs. They are Open Source so nobody can be said to "own" them. One of the leading makers of RISC-V implementation and design software, SiFive, has opened an office in China specifically to get around this stupid US restriction. I have a small RISC-V computer I have been playing with and the design is very promising. Llinux has already been ported to the RISC-V architecture.

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