SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Setting the stage for what could be a prolonged battle between two major EDA vendors, Synopsys filed a patent infringement lawsuit Friday (Sept. 17) against Magma Design Automation. The lawsuit, which seeks damages and injunctive relief, is a response to a patent assertion letter sent earlier by Magma.
According to Rex Jackson, Synopsys vice president and general counsel, Magma's patent assertion letter expressed concern that Synopsys might be violating three Magma patents. After this letter was sent July 1, Jackson said, Synopsys took a careful look at all three patents and determined there was no infringement.
Then, Jackson said, Synopsys noticed that Lukas van Ginneken, a Magma founder and former Synopsys employee, was the sole author of two patents. "Research in our records confirmed that the inventions dated back to the time of his employment with Synopsys, so the patents are actually ours," he said.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., Synopsys is asking for damages, fees and costs, and injunctive relief. The lawsuit doesn't name a specific Magma product, but Jackson said Synopsys believes Magma's Blast Fusion IC physical design suite may be using the technology.
The lawsuit is "completely baseless," said Rajeev Madhavan, Magma chairman and CEO. "The U.S. patent office granted Magma patents for technology that our engineers have spent years developing at Magma," he said. "For Synopsys to assert that these rights don't belong to us is absurd."
The two van Ginneken patents, U.S. patent 6,453,446 and U.S. patent 6,725,438, both describe a timing closure methodology. Both are described as "an automated method for designing an integrated circuit layout using a computer based upon an electronic circuit description and based upon cells which are selected from a cell library."
The method involves three steps: coupling cells together to form a path with a predetermined delay constraint, connecting the cells together with wires to form a circuit path, and adjusting an area of at least one cell to satisfy the associated predetermined delay constraint of the critical path. Jackson said Synopsys is not using this technology.
Synopsys and Magma are fierce competitors in the IC implementation market, and some observers believe Magma is gaining market share at Synopsys' expense. But the competitive situation didn't play into the Synopsys lawsuit, Jackson said.
"We're responding to a move made by Magma," he said. "We would not be here now if they had not sent the letter."
Madhavan noted that Synopsys never responded to the letter. "We sought to open a dialogue," he said, "but never received any response before their actions and statements today. Apparently Synopsys decided that its best defense would be this meritless claim."
"Magma has world-class engineers who were successful in developing exceptional technology, and for Synopsys to now attempt to claim it as its own is both insulting to them and indicative of a time that I thought we in EDA had put behind us," said Greg Walker, Magma CFO.