Freescale, Cypress to license key IP
Within the past few weeks, two leading chip makers have made key IP designs available for licensing for the first time.
Cypress Semiconductor and Freescale Semiconductor, respectively, will make the USB20Hub high-speed hub IP and the ColdFire microcontroller architecture available through startup IPextreme, which reengineers formerly proprietary IP for the commercial market. IPextreme and Freescale have already collaborated on the FlexRay automotive communications controller.
Chip makers are feeling increasing pressure to make their IP available independent of silicon, analysts say. As SoC designers integrate more and more functions on a single chip, chip makers that don’t make their IP available are missing opportunities to expand the reach of their products as well as garner revenue from licensing fees.
“The ability to license ColdFire cores, available now for the first time in the 27-year history of the architecture, will give embedded designers of embedded control greater choice and flexibility in their ASIC designs,” says Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research. “Freescale and IPextreme’s licensing program will also help expand the market for ColdFire architecture within the embedded control community, and it will help broaden the availability of third-party ecosystem support for the architecture.”
IPextreme will market, license and support the V2 ColdFire core and the USB 2.0 hub functionality to SoC designers seeking to integrate the core and other functions onto a single chip.
“The market for USB is huge, and we are clearly the market share leader in stand-alone solutions,” says Scott Harmel, vice president of marketing for Cypress’ Consumer and Computation Division. “Demand for integrating USB 2.0 hub functionality into system chips is also growing, and IPextreme has the expertise to help customers quickly and efficiently integrate our IP into their products.”
Most chip companies are not set up to develop, license or sell IP to the masses. IPextreme repackages technology from companies for the commercial market and handles all end user licensing, payment and support.
IP brokering is not new—many companies tried to do it online during the dot-com boom. Few succeeded: most offered no technical support, had one-size-fits-all licensing terms and frequently sold IP that didn’t work as advertised. IPextreme’s founder, Warren Savage, says IPextreme differentiates itself by supporting both the chip companies that develop the IP and the end users. It reengineers internal IP so the chip companies don’t have to do it, sets price points and manages all licensing and royalty agreements. IPextreme receives a portion of the proceeds.
Chip makers say the real draw is more strategic than financial. Easy-to-use IP can extend and expand the life cycle of a product such as ColdFire or speed market adoption of a new standard such as FlexRay.
Companies that choose to license these products benefit from their being proven technologies.
“The ColdFire licensing program is a key milestone in our Controller Continuum road map, broadening and deepening our market penetration within the 32-bit control industry,” says Mike McCourt, vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Microcontroller Division. “The licensing program gives customers the design freedom and flexibility to develop application-specific solutions that provide control, connectivity and security for a wide array of consumer and industrial products.”
For more on IPextreme, see “Unlocking the IP Vault.”