Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Six Major IP Stories from 2011
In the past year, Asia rose as an IP market, thefts continued, patent trolls flourished, Intel and ARM battled, sensors dominated and subsystems grew.
1. The Asian semiconductor intellectual property (IP) market is growing, bringing potentially new and innovative IP to market. This is one reason why Chipestimate.com opened two new IP portals this year, one in Japan and another in China. Unfortunately, the problem of IP thefts weighs heavily on Asia’s emerging markets.
- APAC Surges Ahead in Global IP Market – A recent report by Technavio Insights confirms strong growth in IP usage and development in Asian countries. What will this mean to the future of chip design?
- World Awakens to Cost of IP Thefts – The EDA-semiconductor community has long understood the damaging cost of stolen IP by major emerging countries. In recent years, these IP thefts have expanded to other critical markets.
- The Shadow Supply Chain – Recent events highlight the existence of a counterfeit chip supply chain that is disastrous to the semiconductor industry and all of its customers.
2. Once the hallmark of innovation, semiconductor IP now become a shield against patent trolls. The ongoing IP patent wars are less about technology and more about market dominance. For these reasons, IP has become the lever of choice for hedge fund managers and merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activities through the semiconductor and consumer electronics industries.
- Was IP Key to Synopsys-Magma Deal? – Bucking popular trends, Synopsys’s interest in Magma is driven more by R&D talent and existing customer base than semiconductor IP.
- Icahn Breaks Even on Finances but Gains on IP – While activist investor Carl Icahn is close to breaking even financially on his bet with Motorola Mobility, his appreciation of the patent portfolio value is ahead of the game.
- IP Patent Wars: Technical Frivolity vs. Substance? – Out of the 17,000 patents that Google acquired from Motorola Mobility, it now appears that only 18 were needed. Can you guess the type of technology guarded by these few precious patents?
3. Intel and ARM continue to encroach upon each other’s markets. Interconnect and ecosystem IP seems to be the differentiator between the two camps, in addition to the endless chase for the lowest power processors. Even third party board designers and manufacturers like Kontron are getting evolved.
- IP Adds New Twist to Intel-Apple-ARM Triangle – Market forces often create strange alliances. Remember IBM, Motorola and Apple during the height of the PowerPC days. Now a new trinity is appearing on the horizon, this time amongst Intel, Apple and ARM. But this new alliance adds a strong IP twist, especially if Intel begins to make ARM chips for Apple Macs.
- Intel Challenges ARM with IP and Interconnect Strategy – Intel reveals key pieces of its SOC realization strategy with the announcement of a new on-chip interconnect fabric and a growing collection of IP. Should ARM be worried?
- Who Will Manufacture ARM’s IP for Kontron? – Board manufacturer Kontron’s recent announcement of a shift from Intel to ARM low-power chip adds new questions about the potential future between the two processor giants.
4. Consumer electronics are rapidly becoming sensor rich. Major consumer providers are looking to IP vendors to supply sensor and gesture IP.
- IP That Senses and Cares – Engineers may be nervous about user experience (UX) based hardware design trends, but the future lies in creating devices that sense and care about their owners.
- Qualcomm Recognizes Importance of Gesture IP – Gesture-recognition technology continues to move into the mainstream as Qualcomm acquires portions of GestureTek, proof of the growing importance of sensor system-based IP.
5. I started the “IP Insider” blog with an acknowledgement that something was happening in the world of semiconductor IP. That “something” was the rise of bundled, subsystem IP. Moving up the abstraction latter from components to subsystems is the way most technology matures to deal with ever complex systems. But the way in which the maturation occurs is unique to each instance. For example, integrating component blocks of IP into a subsystem can increase the cost of the IP. It can also affect relationships betwee IP suppliers and design houses.
- IP Suppliers and Design Houses Get Tighter – ARM’s acquisition of Prolific highlights the challenges between designers and builders at the leading edge process nodes. Will this trigger a new round of M&As between EDA-IP vendors and perhaps even fabs?
- IP Costs Rising – But It May Not Matter – Everyone attributes different reasons for this rise – from quality concerns to integration issues – but the opportunity cost of the alternative would be even higher.
6. The merging of semiconductor electronics and biotech continued to take shape this last year. Look for more stories about this collaboration in the future.
- Biological IP? First Answer Analog vs. Digital Question – Remember the Human Genome Project (HGP), which mapped our species DNA sequence of genes? Couldn’t this be considered as another form of intellectual property (IP), namely, of biological IP? That’s certainly the way major drug companies look at it.