SAN JOSE, Calif. Representatives from the EDA, intellectual property (IP), and semiconductor industries gathered at Wescon 99 to discuss new methods for protecting silicon intellectual property, which the panel called a significant but largely ignored topic.
"Most people don't understand the risk and consequences of not paying attention to IP," said Ian Mackintosh, director of the Inventra group at Mentor Graphics Corp. and chairman of the IP Protection Development Working Group of the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA). "Unfortunately, it looks as though it is going to take a highly visible scare to get people interested in the topic."
Failure to protect IP can be catastrophic, but each company must pick a feasible protection method for its particular IP blocks, Mackintosh.
Mackintosh identified three main types of IP protection: deterrents, protection mechanisms and detection mechanisms.
Patents, copyrights, trade secret s, and contracts have been the main deterrents, Mackintosh said. Meanwhile, protection mechanisms such as licensing and encryption are largely intended to make it difficult for a person to illegally copy IP.
Companies that are more aggressive about protecting their IP are looking at detection methods such as watermarking and fingerprinting to help efforts to identify stolen IP, Mackintosh said.
Panelist Arthur Nutter, president of TAEUS Inc., described his company's efforts to develop a product that will allow companies to fingerprint their algorithms and to develop a standalone fingerprint "reader" for NT or Unix environments.
Meanwhile, Edoardo Charbon, senior consulting staff member at Cadence Design Systems Inc., said Cadence is currently working on a methodology and tool that will allow foundries and semiconductor companies to maintain a "fingerprint bank." Under this scheme, each IP vendor wil l generate core fingerprints that will be stored and tracked in IP banks to monitor customer designs for patent violations.
Cadence will release the methodology at the upcoming ICCAD conference, and will likely release its fingerprint generator and associated tools at the Design Automation Conference next June, Charbon said.
Michael Ma, group manager of the strategic user's group at Artisan Components, said VSIA is currently enhancing Artisan's internally developed Artiscan IP tracking software and is expected to release it as a tracking standard in the fourth quarter of this year.
Jim Ballingall, vice president of worldwide marketing at foundry United Microelectronics Corp., said his company has been using Artisan's Artiscan to track the use of Artisan's and other companies' IP. The software worked so well that UMC suggested it to VSIA as a standard, Ballingall said.
"It is not the most aggressive solution, but it is very effective at helping honest people track IP usage," he said.