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Synopsys serves subpoena to Mentor over PTO request

Posted: 17 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Synopsys? Mentor Graphics? Mamga Design? patent? Dylan McGrath?

Synopsys Inc. has served Mentor Graphics Corp. a subpoena demanding certain documents related to Mentor's request for reexamination of two Magma Design Automation Inc. patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

The subpoena demands that Mentor make available all documents relating to communication between Magma and Mentor on the PTO request as well as to the patents themselves. It also covers any documents relating to any acquisition or sale of assets contemplated by the two companies.

U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney paved the way for the subpoena Oct. 6, granting Synopsys a motion to reopen limited discovery in its ongoing litigation with archrival Magma. Synopsys was granted leave to explore whether or not Magma played a role in Mentor's request. Magma had been barred from seeking reexamination of the same patents by a ruling issued by Chesney on Aug. 30, 2005. On the hand, Mentor filed a request Aug. 18 that the PTO reexamine two Magma patents.

The company argues that Magma may have played a behind-the-scenes role in the Mentor reexamination request. Its motion, filed Sept. 22, states that the reexamination requests "are nearly identical to the draft reexamination requests" that Magma filed in opposition with the court relating to a previous ruling.

David Stanley, Magma's vice president of corporate affairs, told EE Times last month that Magma learned that Mentor was the third party when that company contacted his outside counsel after filing the reexamination request. Stanley also previously told EE Times that Magma played no role in the reexamination request.

The validity of the third patent named in the California lawsuitheld by Synopsysis in question after all 15 claims contained within it were rejected by a preliminary PTO judgment in August. If the three patents named in the suit were ultimately invalidated by the PTO, the trial here would essentially be over. However, such an outcome would take many months and likely face legal challenges. At this point, the PTO has not even determined if it will comply with Mentor's request and reexamine the patents.

The Synopsys-Magma case in California remains in a holding pattern, pending a decision on the first phase of the trial, which concluded in April. Plans call for a second phase of the trial to commence at an unspecified date. The two companies are also involved in a patent dispute in Delaware.

Synopsys and Magma have traded suits and charges since September 2004, when Synopsys originally sued Magma for patent infringement, claiming that Magma's former chief scientist used timing closure methodology originally developed while employed by Synopsys in Magma's Blast Fusion IC physical design suite.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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