June 13, 2005
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| by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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If you visit the website of any EDA company and go to the page on Management, you see that most executive have worked at multiple companies. In fact whenever a new executive is hired, the hiring company touts the prior experience at previous, possibly competing firms, as a great asset. While all would agree that bringing source code, drawings, customer lists and so forth from a former employer is inappropriate and perhaps illegal, what does a person do with his/her technical and market knowledge or prior personal relationships with third parties (customers, vendors, VARS, distributors, press, analysts, ..)? A person's ability to find employment particularly at a given level of
compensation is related to that person's ability to credibly represent himself as an expert in a particular area rather than as a generalist or novice.
Specifics of Magma-Synopsys Litigation
The US patents in question are:
No. 6378114 ('114') issued to Synopsys April 2002 and filed July 1997
No '446' Timing Closure Methodology issued September 2002 to Magma and filed April 1998
'448' Timing Closure Methodology (extends 446) issued April 2004 to Magma
What is of particular interest is that the same person, Dr. Lukas van Ginneken, is identified as co-inventor of '114' and the sole inventor of '446' and '438'. Dr. van Ginneken is a former employee of both Synopsys and Magma.
Who is Dr. Ginneken
? Dr. Ginneken was educated at University of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, from 1978 to 1989 when he received his PhD EE. After receiving his decorate he joined IBM. He worked at Thomas J Watson Research Center at Yorktown Heights, NY as a member of the Logic Synthesis Group for over five years. In June 1995 he left IBM and joined Synopsys. He was a member of the Design Compiler Group for more than one year. He then became a member of the Advanced Technology Group. In both groups he was involved with Next Generation Synthesis System (NGSS) a joint project with IBM. He did research on constant delay. In May 1997 he left Synopsys and joined Magma, which had been
founded in April 1997. He was recruited by Rajeev Madhavam, Magma CEO, who had interviewed him in 1995 while Rajeev was CEO of Ambit. He left Magma October 2002.
Dr. van Ginneken describes the Invention as follows:
“Constant delay synthesis is an entirely different paradigm for delay optimization in logic synthesis. It promises to radically simplify the design process from behavioral synthesis down to physical desing [sic]. It is probably more of a philosophy than an algorithm. Using this philosophy many common optimization algorithms, such as mapping, retiming, behavioral synthesis, delay [&] area optimization, placement can be reformulated in a much simpler form.”
“Under the concept of fixed timing, the timing delays of a chip design are held constant and “fixed,” in contrast to determining timing delay at a later point in the design flow. Because fixed timing involves holding the timing delay constant, it can also been referred to as 'constant delay'.”
April 1, 1997 Magma is incorporated
May 1997 Van Ginneken resigns from Synopsys and joins Magma
July 1997 Synopsys sends letter to Magma enclosing a copy of van Ginneken's agreement with Synopsys and asking Magma to confirm that it would not use any confidential Synopsys information
August 1997 Magma responds saying that van Ginneken intended to honor his agreement with Synopsys.
April 2002 patent '114' patent issued to Synopsys
September 2002 patent '446' issued to Magma
March 2004 Magma entered into a licensing agreement IBM
April 2004 patent '448' issued to Magma
July 2004 Magma expressed concern to Synopsys that Synopsys had implemented a new “gain-based delay model” in an enhanced version of its Design Compiler product. The specific concern was that an optimization technique in Synopsys' software may be covered by one or more of Magma's patents. Synopsys does not respond.
On September 17, 2004 Synopsys files suit in Federal court against Magma. Synopsys alleged that it is the rightful owner of all three patents as a result of a Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement that van Ginneken signed. Synopses further alleged that Magma misappropriated technology conceived at Synopsys, through the acts of van Ginneken, a founder of Magma and former employee of Synopsys.
On Oct. 21, 2004 Magma announced it has filed an answer and counterclaims in United States District Court in response to a lawsuit filed by Synopsys. Magma asserted that its technology is fundamentally different from the invention disclosed in patent '114'. Magma claimed full ownership of the '446' and '448' patents. In any event Magma asserted that any patent rights owned by Synopsys would be held jointly with IBM and therefore licensed to Magma by way of its agreement with IBM.
Magma provides a release to Dr. van Ginneken in exchange for truthful testimony
February 2005 Synopsys files suit against Dr. van Ginneken seeking $100 million in damages
March 10, 2005 Declaration of Lukas Van Ginneken filed and Synopsys drops lawsuit
April 26 and 27, 2005 Dr. van Ginneken deposed in Seattle
Dr van Ginneken files motion to have entire deposition made public
May 18, 2005 US District court rules on Magma's motion to dismiss certain causes of action. Noting that the burden of proof for dismissal is high, the court denied most of Magma's motion.
Some of the key elements of Dr. van Ginneken's declaration are presented below:
Though I conceived the Inventions while employed at Synopsys, the Inventions were not implemented by Synopsys or the Synopsys-IBM joint development team before I resigned from Synopsys.
The Inventions were conceived by myself during my employment for Synopsys for the purpose of developing Synopsys' products.
I understand that on or about September 17, 2002, the '446 Patent, entitled “Timing Closure Methodology,” was issued to Magma. The '446 Patent discloses inventions which I conceived while employed at Synopsys.
I understand that on or about April 20, 2004, the '438 Patent, entitled “Timing Closure Methodology,” was issued to Magma. The '438 Patent discloses inventions which I conceived while employed at Synopsys.
I breached my obligations to Synopsys under the Agreement by, among other things, (a) failing to keep proprietary information of Synopsys in trust and confidence, and (b) using and disclosing Synopsys' proprietary information to and on behalf of Magma without the written consent of Synopsys.
I used for Magma's benefit the inventions contained in Synopsys' draft patent applications, and the inventions from these applications ultimately formed the basis for the patent applications I helped prepare for Magma. I also used for Magma's benefit my knowledge of the information contained in at least one of the white papers that I had created for Synopsys.
Magma and I used the inventions that I conceived while employed at Synopsys as a technical foundation for Magma's products.
It should be pointed out that the author of this commentary is not an attorney, has never attended a law school and has never been involved in a patent application much less a parent litigation case. The depositions of Dr. van Ginneken are a small part of the legal process which is only just beginning. It is far too early to judge the import or relevance of the materials recently made public or the likely final outcome of the case.
During the deposition the attorney for Magma seemed to this uneducated ear to be trying to make the following points:
that Dr. van Ginneken signed the declaring in exchange for Synopsys dropping a $100 million suit against him.
that Dr. van Ginneken understood that he could use materials that were in public domain such as publications and presentations for his work at Magma.
that there was prior art with respect to these inventions
that the inventions appeared in public publications with Synopsys approval
that Synopsys did not file a patent application for these inventions
that Dr. van Ginneken was not the sole inventor of these inventions
that van Ginneken's work on constant delay was part of a joint project with IBM
that no one at Magma encouraged Dr. van Ginneken or was aware that he intended to breach any obligation to Synopsys or use any confidential Synopsys information
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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