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

IP Tagging 1.0 standard: Holy Grail or TMI?

 
April 25th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

Here’s a rhetorical question regarding Accellera Systems Initiative’s newly announced Soft IP Tagging 1.0 Standard: Is this the holy grail of IP or simply way too much information?

The question seems a fair one given the description in Accellera’s April 15th Press Release: “Normally, control of a third-party IP source is lost once the block of IP is licensed, unlocked, or otherwise made available in clear code. IP Tagging 1.0 facilitates a data-driven method to tag a block of IP and track ‘where used’ for applications such as ownership, royalty calculations, and recognition. It also facilitates the implementation of version identification for applicable bug fixes and errata and allows tracking of other data.”

This last bit, the part where bug fixes can be applied, is clearly the stuff of holy grails. But that first bit – reversing the “normal” loss of control regarding the source of third-party IP after it’s licensed and unlocked – isn’t the stuff of TMI, too much information revealed about something that may be better off kept under wraps?

If you’re working on a project for a customer and decide to contract to purchase and include a block of third-party IP to hurry things along, doesn’t the IP Tagging 1.0 scheme now mean your customer’s going to know all about the IP you’ve used? Isn’t that possibly too much information, particularly if confidentiality is important to one or more parties upstream in the design chain?

Perhaps the problem is that the intended beneficiaries for Accellera’s IP Tagging 1.0 standard are not sufficiently articulated.

Is the beneficiary of the standard supposed to be the IP providor, to help them track their IP block once it’s been released to the customer? Is the beneficiary of the standard supposed to be the IP integrator, who will now keep better track of the IP block as the lifetime of the project plays itself out. Or is the beneficiary of the standard supposed to be the end customer, the entity who’s using the design that includes the IP block? Clearly, the needs of these various parties differ markedly.

And there’s an additional issue that’s raised in the Press Release: “Using the Soft IP Tagging 1.0 standard, engineers now have the ability to easily determine if a block of IP is contained within a chip, if it is the correct version, and if it is a candidate for reuse.”

Isn’t it the contractual arrangement between the third-party IP provider and the IP block integrator that assures the “correct version” is being utilized? How can the Soft IP Tagging 1.0 standard know if it’s correct?

And as far as being “a candidate” for reuse, isn’t it also only that contractual agreement that permits an IP block to be reused, not the IP Tagging standard? And even if the IP Tagging standard told you that the block could be re-used, wouldn’t you still want to check with Legal before proceding?

Clearly somehow I am misunderstanding the intent of Accellera’s newly released standard, because I will reiterate the initial question: Is the Soft IP Tagging 1.0 standard the holy grail of IP or simply way too much information?

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Accellera’s Soft IP Tagging 1.0 standard is available immediately for download under open source license at the Accellera website.

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