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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

EDAC’s Costume Contest: Patent Trolls don’t win

October 29th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena

It’s the gospel truth
that if you want to know what went down this evening at the first event in EDAC’s newly launched legal series, you can just wait a sec and see the video when it’s posted to the consortium’s website. But then, as they say, why let the truth get in the way of a good story.

I sat in the back of the room at 3801 Zanker Road in San Jose, imbibing a bit of La Crema Chardonnay and enjoying way too much shrimp and cocktail sauce. Best place if you want to relax, enjoy the evening, and count heads. There were 75 in the room, by the way, all there to enjoy the 2-hour gab fest. And gab fest it was.

First, Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose stood up and impersonated a cheerleader (not the kind that Cooley advocates for, of course) and told us how wonderful we all are, given that Our Valley and His City are at the epicenter of global innovation. Even if by his own admission the good mayor hasn’t a clue what the folks of EDA actually do, we must be wonderful because why else would we be hanging out in SEMI Headquarters and talking about patents. The mayor promised to “get out of our way” as we pursue innovation, and wished us all ever greater business success and ergo ever greater tax revenues for San Jose.

When he was done, John Cabeca, director of the newly minted US Patent Office (located in the San Jose City Hall, of course) stood up and impersonated an Eagle Scout. Sincere, warm, enthusiastic, and quite sure that everyone in the room was as excited about earning patents as he is about handing them out.

Then it was the panels’ turn. Moderator Salumeh Loesch was costumed as an Impartial-ati (rhymes with Glitterati), even though she is an Associate at Klarquist Sparkman. Loesch was neither here nor there regarding patents in conducting the evening’s conversation. An impressive act given that in real life she does patent litigation.

The first panelist was Karna Nisewaner, Associate General Counsel at Cadence. Her costume was a Cape of Good Cheer. Because Cadence engineers come up with ideas all the time, they need to want to capitalize on those innovations, so she constantly asks them to do two things: 1) Write down every idea that comes to mind, and then come to see her so the process of patent prosecution can begin even before the idea has been coded. 2) Don’t read patents that already exist. Not necessary. Too dangerous. Be cheerful, don’t read patents.

The other two panelists also came well costumed – as Impartial Legal Eagles.

Robert Sachs, Partner at Fenwick & West, was amiable and friendly: “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” so don’t wait til it’s perfect before pursuing patent prosecution. Happily, Bob can help you with the process, because “patent language is not English language” and he understands what’s being lost in translation. But hurry, international law is moving fast and all of our patents must be in place to protect your ideas and mine.

John Vandenberg, Partner at Klarquist Sparkman, was equally impartial, well costumed, and compelling: Get your patents because they’re “a defensive move. If you’re the only one in the woods without an arrow, you’re a fool.” But he also warned: Be careful before you pursue a patent litigation, because “once you unleash the beast, it has a life of its own.”

And so the evening went. Full of energetic endorsements of patents and all the good they can wreak on the world.

Meanwhile, those of us at the back started to concentrate on who should win the costume contest. It fell to me to decide and so I made an unusual choice, two winners instead of one: Sachs and Vandenberg.

I chose those two suits to share First Place, because although they were presented as Impartial Legal Eagles, that was only a disguise. In fact, when asked during Q&A to reveal their affiliations, Sachs and Vandenberg admitted that they represent, respectively, Synopsys and Mentor Graphics. No wonder they weren’t introduced with those affiliations. It would have ruined the fun completely.

And speaking of fun, there was even more in play when the panelists were asked if any of them consider themselves to be Patent Trolls. That question unleashed a lengthy, tried-and-true tutorial about intellectual property, the Internet, East Texas, untutored judges, and the real meaning of nonsense. It was very lively and very fun, particularly given the Chardonnay and the shrimp.

Unfortunately, it’s wasn’t convincing.

Yeah, even at the back of the room, I got that there’s a specific and comforting definition for the term Patent Troll, and nobody in that room tonight on Zanker Road fell into that bucket. But how about addressing the less specific, more discomforting definition of Patent Troll?

Those same folks who like to make fun of Patent Trolls by characterizing them as fringe people mostly found in East Texas, are themselves also extremely capable of channeling their own inner Patent Troll. They just don’t use the term.

Whether in costume or not, folks really like to throw around a lot of Happy Talk about innovation and the protection of intellectual property through the use of patents. Nonetheless, it’s the gospel truth that large corporations do indeed use patents and the legal system to intimidate their competitors and maintain monopolistic positions.

It’s not fun, it’s not lively, it’s not good, and it certainly doesn’t promote innovation.

It does however promote winning. And in truth, isn’t that really what life in Silicon Valley is all about?

Happy Halloween.


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3 Responses to “EDAC’s Costume Contest: Patent Trolls don’t win”

  1. Kevin Cameron says:

    Yeah, not hugely helpful other than I now know that Cadence won’t buy patents. Given the alternative for me is to build a simulator and then build some patented modeling on top, I’ll probably just use open-source stuff like Xyce & Icarus Verilog – that way I can take out Spectre and still get my money back 😉

    Shame EDA companies are in Troll mode rather than being collaborative.

  2. […] No one else in EDA writes quite like Peggy, and you can  read her version of the evening elsewhere on […]

  3. […] two successful events in as many months – the Patents Panel in October and the Kaufman Award Dinner in November – EDAC is now offering in December another […]

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