LIVINGSTON, Scotland The Virtual Component Exchange (VCX), a not-for-profit industry organization seeking to streamline the business and legal aspects of licensing intellectual property (IP) cores, is due to demonstrate the first prototypes of its online tools next week at the IP99 Europe conference and exhibition. The group will also announce the addition of six member companies to its roster, including EDA leader Synopsys Inc.
VCX now has prototypes of a virtual component listing tool, a business model builder and a contract configurator, all of which will run on a secure server administered by VCX. The organization plans to run pilot trades using the tools in the first quarter of 2000 before a release of finalized tools to members around the time of the Design Automation Conference, scheduled for June.
Adding momentum to VCX's plans are six new members: Adtran, Simutech, Stellar Semiconductor, Synchronicity, Synopsys and Y Explorations. They bring total membership to 20.
"These [new member] companies are joining at a key defining moment, as we demonstrate to our members the first prototypes of the online trading tools that will underpin the regulatory environment of VCX," said Andy Travers, chief executive officer of the organization.
With the signing of Synopsys, the leading supplier of EDA tools, VCX now has all three major EDA vendors on board (Cadence and Mentor Graphics are the other two), complementing the three major Southeast Asian independent foundries and a number of key semiconductor companies and IP core providers. Toshiba and Motorola, which separately have announced plans to create internal repositories of IP, were heavily involved in developing the VCX tools and are said to be interested in using them.
"We do believe IP infrastructure issues are slowing growth," said Laura Horsey, IP partnerships manager at Synopsys. "Initially we were skeptical about the exchange model, but we are very impressed with the individuals and companies working in this forum. We intend to be involved in the contact development working group, where we believe our OpenMore IP quality program could help."
VCX believes companies can save time and money by trading under a scheme that would offer help at multiple stages of the IP transfer process. Support could include the use of a secure network for initial contact, predefined contract formats, a clearinghouse for auditing the usage of cores and collection of royalties, and a dispute and arbitration service.
VCX has prepared the front-end interfaces to three browser-based tools that will support the contact and contract functions over the Internet. But it has yet to populate databases or finalize key decisions on security. "We are planning to use 128-bit encryption as well as more obvious devices, such as user names and passwords at private Web addresses," said Travers. One possibility: "smart cards to control access on each desk."
The pilot trades planned for early 2000 are part of a collaboration with Design and Reuse SA (Grenoble, France), Nokia Research Center (Bochum, Germany), Rapid, Silicon Integration Initiative and Synchronicity Inc. .