Patents And EDA Making Waves

When was the last time that the legal world looked at the happenings of the EDA industry? These days EDA is setting precedence.


If the old adage “may you live in interesting times” is true, then lawyers must be wondering if they should be very happy or scared. The rate at which law, and patents in general, are changing should give everyone pause – including the future competitiveness of the United States and the value of patents to EDA.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency, recently published a report about the number of patents filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). While in the past, most patents were only sought in the country of origin, the globalization of the planet means that a significant percentage of patents are now filed in multiple countries. The patents filed under the PCT can thus been seen as one measure of the creativity of a nation. Quantity does not necessarily imply quality, but it is at least one measure.

The U.S. continues to be the primary country of origin for PCT filers in 2014, with 61,492 applications, but China has risen to third place and recorded 25,539 applications – an 18.7% annual increase. Japan, which holds the No. 2 spot, saw a 3% decline in the number of filings. At the university level, the U.S. is still way out in front of everyone else and occupies 9 of the top 10 positions. The University of California was the top applicant.

Unsurprisingly, there are no EDA companies in the top 50 companies. However, there is plenty of excitement going on in the EDA legal world and some of it is gaining attention from the larger legal community as we see several firsts, or significant case resolutions, that are setting precedence.

Last week was another important week in the continuing emulation litigation between Mentor Graphics and Synopsys (EVE). As part of the legal wrangling, Synopsys had challenged a Mentor patent, number 6,240,376 “Method and apparatus for gate-level simulation of synthesized register transfer level designs with source-level debugging”, related to the instrumentation of design so that source level probing and debug could be performed on the design. The reason why this was an important finding was that very few patents stand up to an . According to Law 360, 85% of IPRs have resulted in a cancellation of the claims, although other sites claims slightly lower figures. According to an article published in the Chicago Law Review, the IPR process will “result in the elimination of every challenged claim about twice as often, reach a final decision almost twice as quickly, and make accused infringers almost twice as likely to win motions to stay co-pending litigation,” as compared to the previous mechanism.

The Mentor patent has a total of 12 claims and as a result of the review, only three claims were dismissed because they were anticipated by the Gregory patents. The Gregory patents were the ones that were earlier rejected based on the recent ruling of the Supreme Court. See “The Danger of Using Patents” for more information on this aspect of the case.

The net result of all of this was that Mentor won another round of the litigation, and damages of $36M were awarded. Synopsys was served with an injunction preventing it from shipping emulators that are covered by the patent. However, Synopsys believes it is no longer shipping emulators with the offending code in them.

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