Court sides with Synopsys, IBM in EDA patent saga

February 1, 2007 – Both Synopsys Inc. and Magma Design Automation are claiming victory after the latest court ruling that grants joint ownership of two disputed EDA patents to both Synopsys and IBM, and a third patent solely to Synopsys.

The ruling in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California gives co-ownership to both Synopsys and IBM for two US patents (6,453,446 and 6,725,438) relating to timing closure methodology. Synopsys was ruled to be the sole owner of a third patent (6,378,114) relating to a “method for the physical placement of an integrated circuit adaptive to netlist changes.”

Both sides agreed that the decision is a step forward in the case, but predictably there is debate about exactly what the ruling means.

“This outcome clearly demonstrates that Magma built their products on technology they do not own,” said Brian Cabrera, general counsel for Synopsys, in a statement. “The Court’s ruling confirms that Magma misappropriated 73 patented inventions, and rejects Magma’s previous argument that it had any ownership interest in these inventions. With clear ownership established, we can now move to the infringement phase of this case.”

David Stanley, Magma’s corporate VP of corporate affairs, also stated that the ruling “is a major step toward dismissal of infringement claims,” but added that IBM had granted Magma a license to the patents per a 2004 agreement. (In its initial 2004 counterclaim vs. Synopsys, Magma staked a claim to the two patents at issue, but later argued that IBM was a joint owner with Synopsys.) He also added that the ’114 patent is currently under reexamination by the US Patent and Trademark Office, which last fall rejected all 15 claims in that patent.

He also called for the industry to reduce its reliance on litigation, and focus on developing technology to help customers create better chips. “I think it is by now clear to our industry that litigation such as this consumes far too much time and money, resources that are not helping us help our customers,” Stanley stated.

Yet another Synopsys-Magma patent suit, filed by Synopsys in Delaware in 2005, is scheduled to begin trial in June, with Synopsys claiming infringement on a patent, and Magma claiming Synopsys infringes four Magma patents.

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