Inherited traits: EDA consolidation drags market leaders into subsidiaries' squabbles - News - Ikos Systems vs Cadence Design Systems

Inherited traits: EDA consolidation drags market leaders into subsidiaries' squabbles - News - Ikos Systems vs Cadence Design SystemsRecent consolidation in the EDA industry has sparked another lawsuit in the emulation market, pitting subsidiary against subsidiary.

Mentor Graphics Corp.'s Ikos Systems subsidiary is suing Cadence Design Systems Inc. for alleged patent infringement by Cadence's Quickturn subsidiary.

Mentor Graphics filed suit in U.S. District Court, claiming the Cadence/Quickturn hardware emulation system, called Palladium, infringes on its patent for "programmable multiplexing input/output port." The patent was awarded to Ikos in 1998 and was subsequently acquired by Mentor Graphics when it bought Ikos in March.

"The [emulation] industry has been suing each other ever since its inception. They use it for competitive advantage," said Gary Smith, an EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest. "The emulation world would be a lot further along if it was not for these marketing driven lawsuits."

The filing is the latest in a series of disputes between Quickturn and Mentor Graphics stemming back to the 1990s.

"Mentor bought Meta Systems, a French company. Quickturn sued them to keep their technology out of the United States. They've been losing lawsuits in Europe on it, and I don't know if their patent can hold up at all," Smith said. "It makes the EDA industry look like a bunch of 12-year-olds."

Penny Herscher, Cadence's executive VP and chief marketing officer, agreed.

"I think it is bad for the customer and bad for the industry," Herscher said. "It is actually very disappointing that Mentor's first action post-acquiring Ikos is a baseless lawsuit. I would hope the two big companies, Cadence and Synopsys, would behave in a more mature fashion.

"There have been ongoing disputes between Mentor and Quick-turn for many years," Herscher said. "That was based on previous technology, the Mercury and Mercury Plus product line. This is just Mentor continuing to beat their head against a brick wall."

Jim Feldhan, president of Semico Research Corp., said this could mark the beginning of another round of litigation to sweep the EDA industry.

"Legal actions on IP tend to have a domino effect," Feldhan said. "Once one is filed everyone takes a look at it and looks at their portfolio a little closer, and [this] tends to trigger other lawsuits. When times are good and you have opposing patents and there is a little bit of infringement on one to the other, sometimes there is a [tendency to] look the other way. But as times get tough people get a little more defensive about their IP. It can turn into a nasty battle of suits and countersuits."

Meanwhile, Mentor Graphics refused to comment beyond its press statement.

"Hardware emulation is a critical part of Mentor's verification strategy," said Eric Selosse, VP and general manager of Mentor's emulation division, in a statement. "We have very strong emulation IP and will continue to safeguard it so that we can continue to offer the most advanced technology to our customers.