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EDA/IP??

Time to gag the lawyers

Posted: 02 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:eda lawsuits? patent violations? mentor graphics? quickturn? cadence?

Sometimes, it seems that we write more about EDA lawsuits than about innovation. Such is the case in hardware emulation, where a never-ending legal battle over old technology has hobbled the development of anything new.

Mentor Graphics and Quickturn, the latter now owned by Cadence Design Systems, have been suing each other for years over alleged patent violations--and there is no end in sight. Years ago, Quickturn succeeded in having emulators from Meta Systems (Mentor's French emulation subsidiary) banned from U.S. shores. Lawsuits have been piling up ever since, along with Mentor's attempt at a very hostile takeover of Quickturn.

Several years ago, Mentor licensed a patent from Aptix, for the apparent purpose of suing Quickturn one more time. Unfortunately for Mentor, a judge in 2000 dismissed the case after ruling that Aptix's documentation of the patent was fraudulent. Court documents stated that Aptix CEO Amr Mohsen falsified engineering diaries and staged a break-in of his own car to conceal evidence.

Mentor then turned around, sued Aptix for fraud and has since settled one of two lawsuits. And then, Cadence sued both Mentor and Aptix in an attempt to recoup its legal costs. Cadence also explained that its new lawsuit is intended to discourage more lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Mentor is pursuing one case against Cadence for patent infringement and theft of trade secrets. Mentor also inherited, and is pursuing, a separate Ikos suit against Cadence for patent infringement, as well as an Ikos suit against Axis Systems for patent infringement. Cadence and Mentor are suing each other in France, and there is a Cadence appeal in Germany, where Mentor sued Cadence with the help of Avanti Corp.

The latest Cadence lawsuit seeks to recoup $4.6 million in legal fees. If that is what one party paid in just one of many lawsuits, how many tens of millions have gone into this endless emulation litigation? What if that money had gone into R&D, instead of fighting over old technology?

It is time for EDA vendors to realize that legal departments are not supposed to operate as profit-and-loss centers, and that churning out lawsuits does not help customers. If existing vendors cannot calm down the lawyers and put the engineers to work, new companies with new technology will provide the next alternative for designers.

- Richard Goering

EE Times





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