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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.

IP News: Bad outweighs the Good, and your point is?

May 4th, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena

It’s not been pretty of late in the world of IP
. Imagination’s valuation tanked when it was revealed in early April that the company might be losing Apple as a customer. Imagination says it’s going to fight this development, but a different ending to the story of David and Goliath comes to mind in that declaration.

Then this week, that same Imagination announced it was selling MIPS – a company it bought back in 2012 with great fanfare for [a mere] $60 million. [It’s true, MIPS’ patent portfolio was worth a lot more.]

Also this week, TSMC announced it is charging a former employee with IP theft: The former employee is alleged to have stolen manufacturing data from TSMC specifically related to Nvidia and AMD chip production, taken it across the Straights of Taiwan, and turned it over to his new employer in the PRC, HLMC.

This last is a particularly interesting story. Both TSMC and HLMC can be viewed as state-owned operations. For the nation-state of Taiwan to lose manufacturing IP out of its biggest state-owned enterprise to the nation-state of PRC, is more than just corporate theft – it might actually constitute treason. But then, who knows if that’s the correct legal interpretation.

In any case, clearly the IP world is abuzz with difficult news of late.

What are you supposed to do if your designs are based on MIPS cores, or your IP is being baked into chips manufactured in Taiwan?

More importantly, what are you supposed to do if your life as an IP provider is so wrapped up with one alpha-customer, that to lose that account undermines the very viability of your company? Really, how many other customers are there, here in this age of mega-consolidation across the semiconductor world?

Again, the news of late in the IP world has been downright difficult. But is it all bad?

After all, from the looks of the folks who choose to play in the IP market, these are people who don’t just survive. These are people who seem to thrive in the turbulent world of third-party IP. The challenges do not faze them; it’s all part of the dynamic, crazed world they seem to love.

They’re already living on a thrilling knife-edge, developing critical IP that we all know is the underpinning of our digital world. Yet they also know that the theft of their IP – particularly during the manufacturing phase – is par for the course in this always-security-challenged industry.

They already know what it’s like to try to build a customer base, only to find some customers can be fickle, ungrateful and even unkind.

And they always know that despite fierce loyalty to their own employees – people who have helped build the business from nothing to something – sometimes being acquired is the only way to keep the lights on. And post-acquisition, the lights may still be on, but they are often significantly dimmed.

People who choose to work in the SIP industry know all this, and can either be seen as courageous or crazy – or a mad-mix of the two.

Because if you were say to an IP vendor, your world is built on wildly shifting sands, they would probably just say, “And your point is? Why do you think we love this industry so much?

“If it weren’t this big Wild West, it just wouldn’t be any fun coming to work in the morning. Who wants to work on solid ground, when it’s the shifting sands that sharpen your wits and make life worth living.”

Yep, they’re crazy courageous for sure. And that’s why the bad news will never outweigh the good in the zany world of third-party IP. End of story.


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