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(fwd) Re: Patent licenses for circuits in FPGA
From: "Austin Franklin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Patent licenses for circuits in FPGA
Date: 19 Jan 2000 22:25:00 GMT
Organization: MindSpring Enterprises
[I thought this was relevant to this list. Graham]
> It is obvious that if company A makes a UART chip say, and company B has
> a patent on the generic features of a UART, then Company A is liable to
> have to pay a licence and/or royalty to company B.
You can't patent a 'feature' you can only patent a 'method' and possibly
'apparatus' for implementing that 'feature'. Concepts are not patentable.
> Does anyone know of any case history or legal advice concerning company
> C who sells an FPGA containing said UART function? No one in Company B
> can point to circuitry in the FPGA that embodies the patented
> intellectual property.
Company B would bring suit against company C, and during the 'disclosure'
phase of litigation, company C would have to produce the design documents
to the expert witness chosen by company B to examine them. Company C would
never see the documents.
> It is possible, I suppose, that if the patent
> includes method claims, then it might be possible to use these against a
> soft emulation of the patented invention.
Patents HAVE to include method claims, that's what a patent is. Soft
emulation (such as software that does the same thing as hardware) more than
likely won't infringe, because the 'method' is completely different, as
well as the implementation. There is a big todo about the importance of
the QCOM and IDC patents for CDMA, since DSPs are so much more powerful,
there is no need to do CDMA in dedicated hardware (which is what the
patents are), so one can completely get around their patents by using a
cheap DSP and some software...
> I can see a number of possible outcomes:
> 1: every company who owns an FPGA that is downloaded with a "UART"
> program is liable to pay a licence
> 2: every company that sells design IP of a "UART" is liable to pay a
> 3: if an FPGA vendor pays a licence, then any customer can use that
> vendor's chips to implement the "UART" function
> 4: no licence is payable at all.
> Any ideas which of these might apply?
Any of those can apply, depending on what the agreement is. No one is the
'rule'. If there is no patent infringement, there is no 'royalty' due.
Royalties must be negotiated, and they may not be given by the patent
holder. If we're talking about a UART here, I really doubt any patent
would be violated, since most everything to do with a UART will have prior
art, which would negate the possible patent claims.
Realize, just because a patent is issued does not mean it is valid. The
only time a patent is valid, is when it is upheld in court, period. The
patent examiners (with all due respect) aren't the brightest bulbs on the
tree for computer hardware/software.
For fishing lure patents, they are the best in the world! Where else could
you get paid $60k to talk about fishing lures day in and day out....so, if
your patent involves fishing lures, you can be sure, they got it right.
Now, for electronics, they patent office isn't going to attract the best
there is for $60k, these guys are going to be working for some electronics
company drawing 2x the salary the patent office will pay them... Just
something to keep in mind about computer hardware/software patents...
It's not really clear what you are trying to find out here. If you could
tell me a bit more about what it is your concern is, I could possibly try
Be aware that copyright is entirely different than patent. If you find a
copy of my schematic, and decide to re-enter it, and use it, with no or
'little' change, you are violating my copyright (assume the original was
properly marked as such).