Ikos Systems has become the latest hardware emulation firm to go to the courts over the technology used to build its products.
The company has decided to sue fellow US company Axis Systems over claimed infringements of Ikos' patents and those Ikos licensed exclusively from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The market has already seen a long-running legal battle involving Cadence Design Systems' Quickturn subsidiary and its rival Mentor Graphics.
The Ikos suit comes as the company is looking at diversifying into other parts of the hardware verification market. Axis, for its part, started in simulation acceleration but has moved towards emulation.
Linda Prowse Fosler, vice-president of marketing for Ikos, said: "Ikos has long suspected that there was a patent infringement but Axis had confined itself to functional simulation acceleration."
Ikos has its own simulation acceleration technology but this does not use an approach based on the MIT 'virtual interconnect' patent. The market for simulation acceleration has flattened, although emulation is still growing. But a new area in prototyping, using lower cost hardware, has opened up. This is one of the areas that Ikos is now investigating.
"We are staying within our core competency of hardware-assisted verification. One of the areas we are looking at is prototyping," said Prowse Fosler.
In a separate move, Ikos has donated technology to help speed up the link between hardware emulators and software simulators running on workstations to a new industry consortium.
Driven by Ikos and STMicroelectronics, which uses both Ikos and Mentor Graphics emulation hardware, the SCE-API consortium is backed by Aptix, Coware, Mentor, Synopsys and TransEDA. The group plans to get the programming interface ratified by both Accellera and OpenSystemC.
"We expect early spring for OpenSystemC. Accellera will take longer because of their ratification process," said Prowse Fosler.