Earlier this week, we reported that ARM China had seized IP belonging to ARM, its parent company. The author of the story we linked apparently did not fully understand the context of the situation, however, and we inadvertently magnified an article with some misapprehensions in it. We have spoken to ARM and done some follow-up investigating of our own, and want to set the record straight.
Not everything in the original article was incorrect. ARM is currently in a legal fight with ARM China and Allen Wu. Wu was voted out for reportedly using ARM China’s resources to procure orders for his own company. The various allegations that Wu has hired security guards, fired a number of employees, and still holds the seal of the company have been reported on by multiple publications. There is an ongoing dispute between ARM and ARM China.
But the accusations that ARM China had stolen ARM IP and was relaunching it under its own banner? Those don’t appear to be true. First, here’s a formal statement, as provided to us by an ARM representative:
Arm has seen strong growth in our business as our global partners shipped more than 25 billion Arm-based chips in 2020. Of those 25 billion chips, more than 3 billion were shipped by our partners based in China.
Arm continues to have a successful working relationship with the Arm China team in support of this growth, and both the structure and ownership of the JV remains unchanged since its inception in 2018.
This doesn’t explicitly refute the idea of IP theft, so we did a bit of additional digging ourselves and spoke to a few other sources with knowledge of the situation. The reason ARM hasn’t transferred higher-end CPU IP to the Chinese market is said to be related to the fact that most cutting-edge mobile silicon in mainland China was built by Huawei/HiSilicon, and HiSilicon is under restrictions via the US Entity List. I don’t have any information about the accusation that ARM withheld data on its latest ISA, ARMv9, but that could also be explained as a bargaining chip in the ongoing legal fight, not as a retaliatory response to IP theft.
We’ve seen a translated version of the AnMou (ARM China) press release, and it offers some important context.
What AnMou Technologies announced is that it would be launching its own line of products based on its own in-house IP, branded as Core Power. The press release states: “Core Power improves the computing by extension from CPU to other computing units represented by NPU, ISP, VPU, and GPU.”
Core Power isn’t trying to steal already-developed ARM IP. The company makes this clear later in the press release when it writes:
AnMou Technology officially announced [a] “two wheels” strategy. On one hand, the company continues driving localization and ecosystemization development of ARM CPU architecture. On the other hand, the company will focus on autonomous self-development to develop autonomous-architecture-based XPU products and diversified ecosystem. Via the combination of innovation of XPU and traditional IP, the company will provide diversified and customized computing units to address the demands of China industry and market. xDSA-based XPU is an open intelligent-data-stream-fusion computing platform.
This is not theft. It’s no different than the idea of AMD licensing a Cortex CPU from ARM while simultaneously continuing to develop Ryzen. Regardless of the other problems between ARM and ARM China, the IP theft angle is apparently incorrect. Core Power is not a new tech company intended to steal IP, it’s a new brand the ARM subsidiary created to sell its own IP at home. ARM’s business model is designed to encourage this kind of flexibility.
The story ExtremeTech originally linked was based on accurate reporting but was not, itself, particularly accurate. ET regrets the error.
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