Synopsys vs. Magma, Lessons learned?
Over the years, I’ve read numerous opinion pieces that there is too much litigation in EDA and that it hurts the industry. I agree the litigation hurts the industry and relative to EDA’s size there is too much of it but what really hurts the industry is theft in the first place. Some folks may easily dismiss the Synopsys vs. Magma suit as frivolous and say Synopsys brought it simply stop Magma’s momentum in the market. Indeed, there is no question it hurt Magma in many ways and indeed the legal bills also hurt Synopsys.
Magma’s senior vice president of Corporate Affairs, David Stanley pretty much summed it up in a brief interview today: “I think we’ve all learned that patent litigation can be very expensive, time consuming and mentally draining,” he said.
But let’s not forget the suit really had merit and the whole thing got started when Magma sent Synopsys a patent infringement letter only to discover over the course of discovery and much litigation that, oops, some of the patents or at least ideas behind the patents were actually originally developed at Synopsys’ by a former employee of both companies. In other words, Magma thought it was doing the right thing and turned out unknowingly it wasn’t. Magma’s plan-B, and ultimately its way out of serious danger in the suit, quite frankly was that it signed a cross licensing agreement with IBM and it turned out the court ruled that some of the patents in dispute were jointly developed and owned by IBM and Synospys. Do you think Magma would have sent the patent assertion letter to Synopsys if it really knew the history of the patents?
I don’t think you have to be much of psychic to say the answer is clearly, NO. So in the end I don’t think there is a good guy or a bad guy in Synopsys vs. Magma, just a bunch of oversights that snowballed into a multimillion dollar legal mess.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article on the potential dangers and the ins and outs of employee contracts and how to lessen the chance you are sued by your former employer and whether you are putting yourself and your current employer at risk for a lawsuit. In short, the BIG takeaway is don’t take any tangible stuff you developed at one company to your new company. Things get a bit hazier when you take a skill set developed at one job to another job. But the fact is anyone can sue you but you can only lessen the chance you or your company will not be sued by taking precautions when you leave a company. Companies also have to take precautions to screen employees and patents they file—that’s certainly a lesson hopefully learned in the Synopsys vs. Magma suit.
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