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Berkeley Design Automation and the Cadence Legal Action!

Berkeley Design Automation and the Cadence Legal Action!
by Daniel Nenni on 04-11-2013 at 7:30 pm

SemiWiki broke the story yesterday about the Cadence legal action against Berkeley Design Automation and today I spent time with customers of both companies in Silicon Valley getting reactions. That is the advantage of working in Silicon Valley for almost 30 years, if you don’t know the right people, you certainly know the people who know the right people. This is what I am hearing:

  • BDA believes Cadence’s recent lawsuit has no merit. They state they did not breach any agreement with Cadence and did not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as claimed. Furthermore, BDA says they made reasonable efforts to solve with Cadence, but to no avail.
  • BDA uses a SKILL-based integration into ADE, which is the same interface that is available to all Cadence customers. SKILL is a de facto industry standard. SKILL provides a superior integration than OASIS, and it does not require an additional license from Cadence. BDA developed a SKILL-based integration prior to being a Cadence Connections member, and has supported it since that time and says Cadence was very well aware of this.
  • BDA and a lot of other people in the industry believe Cadence has chosen to sue BDA — because their technology is winning in the market. BDA has over 100 customers, has been selected back-to-back as one of the fastest growing technology companies in North America in 2011 and 2012, and appear to be showing continued strong growth,and are going to be launching new products this year.
  • BDA believes that the semiconductor market is best served by companies fairly competing on technical and business merits in the marketplace, and that’s where they intend to continue focusing their efforts. BDA strongly supports customers’ ability to use best-in-class tools in well integrated flows while respecting all parties’ intellectual property rights.

You can see a PDF of the 9 page complaint HERE. Thousands of people have viewed it already and you should too. This case will be tried in the court of public (customer) opinion as well as a court of law.

What is Cadence really telling their customers about building those best-in-class flows? According to what I know from customers, BDA has two interfaces into Virtuoso ADE. A SKILL based interface which customers can customize and control and the OASIS interface which is controlled by Cadence. As you might imagine the SKILL based interface is the most commonly one used because customers want choice and it’s the method of choice. If I’m wrong here let me know, I’m not an engineer, I just play one on TV.

The most concerning thing to me is a placeholder for additional people/companies to be named as defendants in the suit. This reminds me of the Cadence vs Avant! lawsuit in the late 1990’s. I was with Avant! so my information flow was filtered but I do remember hearing that Cadence CEO Joe Costello made customer visits and implied legal liability for purchasers of the Avant! product that was under indictment. The most repeated story says that Joe went to Japan and told Japanese customers. “If you do business with crooks you are a crook” and the rest is history, Joe Costello was fired from Cadence. That is the problem with this type of legal action, it almost always gets personal and emotions trump rational thinking. The interesting thing here is the Sr VP in charge of this Cadence product group is Chi-Ping Hsu, who I worked with at Avant!. Just a little bit of irony here?

One has to ask whether Cadence is scared of BDA? If they aren’t, maybe they should be. Many people here in the valley are saying that BDA’s the first company to break Cadence’s dominant analog/mixed-signal/RF franchise. Comments that I have heard include:

  • BDA did what everyone thought was impossible — 5x-10x faster SPICE with 100x capacity.
  • Cadence tried to compete technically (Spectre Turbo) and lost.
  • Cadence tried again to compete technically (Spectre APS) and appears to be losing.
  • Cadence tried to use punitive business terms on customers that selected BDA.
  • BDA is now winning on AMS.
  • BDA is rumored to have the first SPICE-accurate memory simulator that is beating Cadence’s new memory simulator.
  • At this point BDA seems to have the best SPICE, RF, AMS, and memory—all in one company.

 The other potential liability of this legal action is with the Federal Trade Commission. Given that the Virtuoso products in question have significant market share (some estimates put it at 80%), this may be viewed as a monopoly. If so, this type of legal action bears much more scrutiny under Federal anti-trust laws.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. We are human and we make mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes hurt an entire industry.

Check out the 20+ comments on the original blog and post your opinion there:

Cadence Sues Berkeley Design Automation

There are two sides to every story so lets make sure both are explored.

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