By Paul Dillien, High Tech Marketing pldesignline.com (September 17, 2008)
This article describes a new way of tagging designs to help to counter the rapidly growing trade in stolen IP and cloned designs. The topic is a difficult one for the industry to discuss; recently, however, more and more voices have been raised on the issue.
An estimate of the prevalence of counterfeit electronics has been put as high as 10%. (The International Chamber of Commerce website, for example, includes the statement: "Counterfeit electronics are estimated to account for 1 to 10 % of global electronic sales"). This is supported by the Alliance for Gray Markets and Counterfeit Abatement
(AGMA), an industry group that consists of Hewlett Packard, Cisco, and other top tier electronics OEM companies, which estimates the loss to manufacturers at more than $100B. The hidden costs of damaged reputations and reliability issues for the end customer are more difficult to quantify.
One unfortunate consequence of the rise of programmable logic coupled with the decline of the ASIC is that it is now easier than ever to copy a design. Some Asian or Eastern European companies openly claim to specialise in "reverse engineering" or copying PCB layouts and memory contents. It is difficult, expensive, and time consuming to reverse engineer an ASIC, but simple to copy the configuration bit stream of the most popular FPGAs (see *note) as illustrated in Fig 1.
Click here to read more ...