PARIS – The 'Mentor versus EVE' saga continues with two plot developments, one in Oregon, United States, and the other in Tokyo, Japan.
For the past six months, Mentor Graphics Corp. (Wilsonville, Oregon) has bombarded EVE SA (Palaiseau, France) with patent infringement allegations. A few weeks after EVE received and analyzed the latest complaint from Mentor in Japan, EVE's president and CEO Luc Burgun contacted EE Times and, in the flow of the discussion, asked Mentor to reassess their legal position in Japan and to cease the new patent suit filed before the Tokyo District Court.
In July 2010, Mentor filed an import suspension application against EVE emulation products in Japan with the Japanese Customs office. The filing then requested that Japanese Customs issue a ruling that EVE emulation products infringe Mentor's intellectual property. The application also requested that, upon making such a determination, the Japanese Customs Office bar importation of EVE products into Japan.
One month later, Mentor filed a patent infringement suit against EVE in a federal court of Oregon based on patent US6,876,962, issued April 5, 2005. The company said it is seeking damages and to bar the manufacture and sale of EVE's products in the United States.
Then, in December, Mentor filed a patent infringement suit against EVE before the Tokyo District Court. The Oregon-based company indeed claimed that a majority of the appointed experts at the Japanese Customs office did not challenge the broad scope of their patent and further suggested that this case be examined at a civil trial.
In this complaint, Mentor continues to claim infringement of their JP 3588324 patent by EVE's ZeBu product, more specifically, when using the Virtex Readback™ feature of the Xilinx FPGAs for debugging a design.
During the interview, Burgun highlighted two elements in this matter.
First, not only EVE's technical experts think this Virtex Readback feature is far from what is described in the patent at issue -this was also the conclusion drawn by the Japanese Customs- but also the company said it does not understand why Mentor keeps challenging a technology brought to market by Xilinx more than 10 years ago. "That's before the filing of the patent at issue. This doesn't make sense."
Second, Burgun said EVE is not the only company to use the Virtex Readback feature. It has been used in various products by other EDA companies such as ChipIt by ProDesign, now part of Synopsys. "Xilinx developed that functionality, and all that we do is simply use it in our products. If they want to sue someone, why don't they sue Xilinx directly?"
Asked why he thinks Mentor elected to target EVE, Burgun indicated that the company has become a serious competitor to Mentor. Also, he thinks that Mentor intends to isolate EVE, and more precisely to keep it away from initial public offerings and/or mergers and acquisitions.
Actually, this legal battle has a sense of Déjà Vu. Mentor sued EVE in March 2006 for allegedly violating three Mentor patents. The companies settled before going to trial.
"At that time, we were a small company. We generated about $10 million revenue. After six months of legal procedure, and since we had managed to prove that the patents were not solid, Mentor was inclined to settle the matter. Lawyers' fees were such that we could not continue in that direction. We agreed to license the patents for a reasonable price, and that settled the matter."