Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Design, Verification and Now Management IP?
Industry leaders from Deloitte, IPExtreme, Dassault Systemes, Jama Software, and Semico Research argue the need for enterprise-level hardware and software IP management.
Last year, I asked the experts if chip designers really had to worry about disruptive supply chains issues like natural disasters and global politics. There responses were mixed but all agreed that outside influences are becoming a bigger problem for development. (see, “Are Designers Really Affected by the Semi Supply Chain?”)
Today, I ask a related question about the seemingly mundane non-design specific influences associated with the management of IP. Must chip designers worry about the creation, discovery, cataloging, licensing, legal and other aspects of both company internal and supply chain external IP? Once again, experts from a variety of backgrounds have shared their views including: Mark Davis, Principal at Deloitte Consulting; Warren Savage, President and CEO of IPExtreme; Eric Nguyen, Director of Business Intelligence at Jama Software; Michael Munsey, Director Product Management and Strategy at Dassault Systemes, and; Richard Wawrzyniak, Senior Market Analyst for ASIC & SoC at Semico Research. What follows is a portion of their comments. – JB
Blyler: Do semiconductor engineers really need to worry about IP management and related lifecycle issues? Don’t they already have enough to worry about?
Davis: This is a critical piece of the business as IP related lawsuits are increasingly used for competitive advantage. The growth of patent troll activities requires firms to manage IP tightly and be able to defend against claims. Semiconductor hardware, and software are by nature modular systems made up from interchangeable building blocks of IP. Managing these blocks effectively to produce better products faster and cheaper is the way to sustain a competitive advantage.
If there is no enterprise wide IP management solution, it typically falls on engineering leadership to work with Corporate IP counsel during the design review process. This approach may work for a small number of products but it is not sustainable at scale.
Wawrzyniak: I think that concept of the management of IP needs to start at the highest level within a company – especially if there are multiple design groups in that company that will be expected to use the IP once it is created. If a company has only one or two design groups, then the need for this high level management is less pressing as you would expect the designers to be closer together than in a very large company. You could also make the case that where a company has multiple multinational design groups – each working on a separate design or on portions of the same design – then the need for management would be great.
Nguyen: Technology products are evolving from electro-mechanical based IP competitive differentiation to customer experience differentiation powered by software applications running on optimized hardware. The accelerated rate of innovation of customer facing products has a direct impact throughout the supply chain. Software producers must manage the interdependencies not only across their product lines but also across the various technologies they’ll be deployed on (i.e. iOS, Android, Web, integrated into 3rd party technology) or various subsystems.
Managing catalogs of licensed and proprietary (hardware and software) IP reused across product lines is becoming a challenge in the semiconductor industry.
Savage: The concept of a “lifecycle” is a good way to talk about the range of activities, risks, and costs associated with IP for a semiconductor company (or enterprise). Today, we are seeing amazing levels of IP reuse to solve the big problem of creating complex devices at lower and lower costs. But as time goes on, the attention will start turning to some of these hidden costs associated with creating/buying/using/supporting IP. We see a lot of big companies starting to struggle with these things today, so — it’s coming.
Munsey: Most designers and verification engineers understand the need for IP reuse in system-on-chip (SoC) design. But few seem aware of the management and governance that such IP will require. For example, as companies reuse more internal IP and acquire more external IP, they’ll need to create a cataloging system. This catalog will lead to a grading of IP based upon its usage and known defects. Just as with internal IP, the third-party IP must be tracked not only for bug issues but also for royalty and licensing payments. For large companies, all of these management activities will need to happen across a multiple of projects.
Blyler: Thank you.