To encourage widespread intellectual property trade, the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA) is releasing a white paper that aims to bring IP protection to the forefront, and demystify-for the novice and the expert, alike-the associated legal and technical issues.
According to the VSIA, overall awareness of the infringement problem is low, while at the opposite extreme, fear of theft has impeded devel-opment of a healthy IP industry.
"The problem is there, and we need to address it," said Ian Mackintosh, chair of the IP protection development working group (IPP DWG) of the VSIA, based in Los Gatos, Calif. "There's a large number of tools and products growing up around this whole area of providing IP."
Yet there hasn't been anything that addresses the subject of IP protection in simple, concise fashion, Mackintosh said.
The VSIA's free 17-page white paper, titled "Intellectual Property Protection: Schemes, Alternatives, and Discussion," delves into existing and emerging deterrents to IP theft, such as patents, copyrights, and trade secrets; protection mechanisms, including encryption, hardware, and chemical means; detection schemes like digital watermarking and fingerprinting; and silicon security options.
The VSIA is not trying to pass the paper off as legal advice; rather it is hoping to raise awareness among virtual component providers and users with a frank discussion of the pros, cons, and costs of various IP-protection approaches, Mackintosh said.
"The paper gives insight into what these things are, and what might be appropriate for you," he said. "To get a comprehensive briefing like this, to dig out at this level, you'd have to read 25 books on the subject."
The need to protect IP is also driven by the increasing practice of design reuse, a convention the VSIA was formed to promote. Design reuse, combined with a growing commercial IP trade, raises the potential for infringement, the group said.
The market for semiconductor IP grew by 36% last year to represent over $400 million of the total chip market, according to Dataquest Inc., San Jose. While half of that figure is comprised of three major players-ARM, MIPS Technologies, and Rambus-smaller suppliers, particularly those in communications and consumer areas, experienced strong growth.
Among these, there are hundreds of emerging companies with unique technologies to sell, but with no idea of how to protect it, the VSIA contends.
The IP protection white paper was a collaborative effort by IPP DWG member companies and individual contributors, including ARM, Cadence Design Systems, European Electronic Chips & Systems design Initiative (ECSI), Fujitsu, Mentor Graphics, Metis Associates, NetLogic Microsystems, Oki Electric Industry Co., PalmChip, UMC, and Xilinx.
The white paper can be downloaded free from the VSIA's Web site located at www.vsi.org.
Mackintosh said the group continues to investigate emerging technologies, including noise-based fingerprinting and digital fingerprinting, and is soliciting industry input.