SAN JOSE, Calif. Under the weight of three lawsuits filed by Silvaco Data Systems Inc., IC modeling and characterization provider Circuit Semantics Inc. (CSI) may fold in June, EE Times has learned. Silvaco sued CSI for alleged trade secret theft in 2002.
Ivan Pesic, Silvaco's founder and CEO, said that he has been contacted by eight to 12 CSI customers including Motorola Inc., TimeLab, Mission Research Corp., and Cirrus Logic stating that CSI officials have told them the company is closing its doors in June.
As part of the arbitration agreement in which CSI turned over most of its source code to Silvaco, Pesic's company now offers direct replacement tools based on DynaCell and DynaCore called SmartCell and SmartCore, respectively. The company claims it has improved on CSI's technology.
CSI officials refused interview requests, but a spokesperson in an e-mail said the company had "no comment" when asked if the company plans to close its doors.
Pesic confirmed that Silvaco has three suits pending against CSI and its employees related to CSI's alleged failure to fully comply with last year's settlement agreement with Silvaco. That company originally filed a trade secret theft suit against CSI and six CSI employees in 2002, claiming that two former Silvaco employees stole SmartSpice simulation code from Silvaco to build CSI's DynaSpice simulator, which CSI gave away free to customers as an add-on to its DynaCell and DynaCore characterization products.
Silvaco's suit claimed that not only had CSI stolen the code and used it to build a competing product and a company, but because CSI gave it away for free, it hurt DynaSpice standalone simulation sales and cost Silvaco millions.
In an August 2003 arbitration agreement, CSI agreed to pay Silvaco an undisclosed amount of cash, turn over perpetual source-code rights for all Circuit Semantics products to Silvaco, and turn over the allegedly stolen property within 10 days of the settlement agreement. Pesic said the agreement also stated CSI was also not in any way to assist customers to use the stolen property.
CSI then proceeded to sell key patents to an undisclosed EDA vendor, which EE Times has since learned is Magma Design Automation, to raise enough cash to pay off the Silvaco fines.
Ewald Detjens, CSI's CEO, then secured further rounds of venture funding to keep CSI in business and developing new technology, and CSI secured an OEM agreement for Legend Design Technology's Spice simulator to fill the gap left by DynaCell/SmartSpice. As early as last month, CSI teamed with library vendor Prolific and Legend to offer silicon-accurate libraries.
But Silvaco's Pesic claimed CSI had not been playing straight with Silvaco and the court. This prompted his company to reopen and expand the charges of the 2000 case against CSI employees, and prompted two other lawsuits. A $10 million suit filed in September 1993 claimed CSI and Detjens intentionally interfered with economic relationships, and another $144 million suit filed in April 2004 claimed "intentional interference with economic relationships."
Pesic said while CSI did pay the fines and turn over source code last September, it did not turn over the code documentation and thus did not fully comply with the 2003 arbitration agreement. According to Pesic, the related 2000 suit against CSI's six employees would have gone away had CSI complied with all the terms of the 2003 settlement.
Pesic said CSI claimed it did not have further documentation, and then at a later date, turned over to Silvaco more than 100 boxes of documentation. But in those boxes, claims Pesic, Silvaco found evidence that SmartSpice code is in use in CSI's current version of DynaCell product.
"The code they did turn over clearly demonstrated they stole the entire SmartSpice about 800,000 lines of code," said Pesic. "They took the entire SmartSpice and built their entire company on it. The code of SmartSpice was propagated everywhere."
Pesic claims that this discovery prompted Silvaco to seek permission to reopen the original suit against CSI, and that this request was granted by the Santa Clara Superior court. Silvaco attorneys, said Pesic, were also successful in having the ceiling removed from any award a jury or judge may grant Silvaco if the newly reopened cases favor Silvaco.
Pesic said a subsequent lawsuit against CSI was filed after Detjens claimed in a press release, and in letters to customers, that CSI customers could continue to use DynaSpice forever. "It is like saying you stole my child but you can have visitation rights," said Pesic. "A number of customers told me that they will continue to use it because they bought it and because CSI told them it was okay to use it. That didn't make me happy."
Pesic noted that Detjens then filed a defamation suit against Silvaco for $10 million because the company posted the judgment on Silvaco's Web site and called CSI "thieves."
Later, Pesic said, Silvaco discovered that CSI issued a tool maintenance upgrade to customers of its DynaCell and DynaCore products that removed license protection for DynaSpice, essentially allowing customers to use that version of DynaSpice forever, perhaps until a replacement Spice engine could be found.
"There are some customers in Silicon Valley alone that have 2,000 copies of illegal DynaSpice from CSI and they are using it today," said Pesic. "CSI is in direct violation of the arbitration agreement."
Pesic said removal of the license protection prompted a third suit against CSI, claiming that CSI intentionally interfered with economic relationships. That suit seeks to essentially put a year's worth of free DynaSpice licenses on CSI's tab. Silvaco is asking CSI to reimburse Silvaco for the number of licenses CSI had outstanding over the last year multiplied by $5,000 per license, or $144 million.
Pesic noted that if and when CSI closes its doors, Silvaco plans to still pursue legal action against the six CSI employees named in the original suit, most of whom, claims Pesic, now work at Magma Design Automation. But Pesic said that Magma itself is not in any danger of a lawsuit from Silvaco because Magma only owns CSI patents, not code.
Silvaco has a litigious history. It has waged legal battles with Magma president Roy Jewell's former company, Technology Modeling Associates, as well as MetaSoftware and Avanti Corp. Silvaco won a $20 million judgment from Avanti just prior to the latter company's acquisition by Synopsys.