Synopsys-Backed China EDA Tool Firm Allegedly Poached TSMC Employees

(Image credit: Amedac)

According to Bloomberg, Taiwan authorities have raided the offices of China-based Advanced Manufacturing EDA Co. (Amedac) on allegations that the company had been hiring semiconductor engineers from TSMC without following appropriate regulations. Amedac is co-owned by U.S.-based Synopsys, which has been probed for illegally providing electronic design automation (EDA) tools to Huawei's HiSilicon as well as SMIC. 

Officials from Taiwanese Ministry of Justice (MoJ) raided Advanced Manufacturing EDA Co. in March looking for evidence that the company had allegedly hired personnel from TSMC with the aim to develop its own EDA software. The investigators are looking into Amedac's hiring practices and at this time there are no prosecutions. Taiwan is in process of essentially banning recruiting employees from critical industries, such as production of semiconductors, by Chinese high-tech firms in a bid not to help China to propel its chip production industry. 

Taiwan and Taiwanese semiconductor firms are concerned not only with the fact that China is gaining semiconductor prowess, but with the fact that people hired from companies like TSMC could share trade secrets / proprietary technologies with their China-based employers. Back in the day TSMC sued SMIC for stealing its fabrication processes and while today it is close to impossible to copy complex FinFET-based production nodes, nobody wants to take a risk. 

EDA tools are also a major concern. While China has thousands of chip design firms and local chip producers, it does not have the EDA tools required for chip development. As a result, when the U.S. government essentially left HiSilicon and SMIC without new EDA software in 2020, the companies were badly hit. As a result, it is evident that Chinese firms need locally developed electronic design automation software. 

Established in September, 2019, Amedac develops EDA tools and is based in Hefei, China. Synopsys, one of the world's largest producers of EDA software, owns a 20% stake in the company, whereas the remaining stakes are controlled by SummitView Capital, CEC Huada Electronic Design Co. and the Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (a government-backed organization). 

Synopsys says that it maintains a distributor relationship with Amedac, which allows it to resell its tools to various customers. Meanwhile, Amedac has not got any actual technologies from Synopsys, the EDA specialist claims.

Anton Shilov
Contributing Writer

Anton Shilov is a contributing writer at Tom’s Hardware. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • jkflipflop98
    You're idiots for selling software to China. As soon as they've figured out what's going on they're just going to take your software and stiff you on the bill. No honor at all.