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PICList Thread
'PicMicro Compatibles'
1998\10\28@062842 by Justin Zeit

picon face
Myke,

With due respect to you as a valuable piclist contributor, I think your
position regarding the purpose of the Microchip patents is nonsense.  Most of
the patents you cite were filed in 1996 or 1997, so they cannot even apply to
the 5x parts.  In fact, the only Microchip patent that I could find on the IBM
server that predates the 5x parts deals with ROM.

It looks to me like Microchip is caught up in the industry fad of making wild
IP claims (who ever used the term IP more than 2 years ago) to bolster their
stock value.  I can't help but think that these patents are weak, and are only
useful as a threat against startups that might threaten their market share.
In effect, any startup has to budget a sizable amount of cash to keep
attorneys on retainer and hope they can bring their case to court before they
go bankrupt or lose their venture capital.

The flaw in the "IP as a weapon" strategy is that you can't afford to risk
having crappy patent claims invalidated in  open court if you have sold your
stock holders on the idea that your "IP portfolio" is the basis of the
company's value (rather than your popular products).

Why else would Microchip have only brought 6 of its 67 wonderful patents
against Scenix, and later dropped the number to 2?

BTW - The burden is on the patent holder to show infringement, not the other
way around.



Original message -------------------
Date:    Tue, 27 Oct 1998 10:54:28 -0500
From:    myke predko <spam_OUTmykeTakeThisOuTspamPASSPORT.CA>
Subject: Starfire and PICMicro "Compatibles"
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Wow, Lots of comments regarding this issue.  Let me add my own and some
replies to Starfire.

First off to Starfire, I'm curious as to how you can produce a compatible
version of the Microchip parts without infringing on the following patents:

5796312 - Microcontroller with firmware selectable oscillator trimming

5694067 - Microcontroller having a minimal number of external components

5686844 - Integrated circuit pins configurable as a clock input pin and as a
         digital I/O pin or as a device reset pin and as a digital I/O pin
and
         method therfor

5675622 - Method and apparatus for electronic encoding and decoding

5670915 - Accurate RC oscillator having peak-to-peak voltage control

5604701 - Initializing a read pipeline of a non-volatile sequential memory
         device

5587866 - Power-on reset circuit

5552751 - Low voltage, low power oscillator having voltage level shifting
         circuit

5513334 - Memory device with switching of data stream modes

5473758 - System having input output pins shifting between programming mode
and
         normal mode to program memory without dedicating input output pins
for
         programming mode

5454114 - Microcontroller power-up delay

And the list goes on (just as Scenix).  Microchip currently has 67 patents;
these are the ones I felt were most appropriate to the 16C54 designs.  You
can look at these patents at:

http://www.patents.ibm.com

One of the interesting things about these patents is that many of the
graphics in them are identical to what is in the Microchip datasheets.

Now, if you have a license from Microchip to use these patents in your
products, then you should say so.

With regards to Intel processor clone situation, both AMD and Cyrix have
demonstrated in court that their products do not infringe on any Intel owned
intellectual property.  If your products don't, then you should say so.


If you can't demonstrate that you have licenses from Microchip to use their
technology, or have created similar functions completely independantly, then
you are going to have to put up with the label of "Parasite" and have some
good lawyers on retainer.

1998\10\28@071108 by John Haggins

picon face
>Myke,
>
>With due respect to you as a valuable piclist contributor, I think your
>position regarding the purpose of the Microchip patents is nonsense.

True... I think Myke should be careful about criticizing other peoples
products especially when this list is so silently kind to him regarding the
chronic "quality" of his book... nuff said.

1998\10\28@115852 by myke predko

flavicon
face
Hi Justin,

I appreciate your reply and you bring up some interesting points.

Why do you assume that patents filed in 1995/6 cannot be applied to 12C5x
parts?  From my understanding of US patent law, information that was held
proprietary within a company and not disclosed to outside companies (an NDA
may be acceptable, but I think there are issues with this) can be patented
at any time.

Now, having said this, was it right for Microchip to bring in a bunch of
lawyers a few of years ago and patent everything to protect their perceived
interests?  I think this is the point that you are trying to make and it's a
good question.

You're right; many companies patent to keep their competitors out of the
market and, for many reasons, I agree with you in thinking this is wrong.
I'm thinking of where the PC market would be if Hayes had "protected" the AT
command set, Gravis (I think) had made the "SoundBlaster" interface a trade
secret or IBM had patented ISA (look what happened with MCA).  All these
examples of how both the companies and the PC standard have prospered
significantly.  But how is a company supposed to protect itself from blatent
rip offs?

You also bring up the comment "any startup has to budget a sizable amount of
cash to keep attorneys on retainer and hope they can bring their case to
court before they go bankrupt".  I'm afraid you're right.  I've seen a
number of lawsuits with some of our (Celestica) customers and it's
unfortunate, but age and guile can overcome youth and enthusiasm in the US
with the proper application of lawyers.

Starfire's career seems to be based on using other's work without
acknowledging the original owners (or paying royalties to the owners).  Now,
I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any information to the contrary.  This
is what I find reprehensible and feel that I can complain about.

Now, if Starfire has been in contact with Microchip and has either not
infringed on protected property or has their permission to use it, then I
would apologise for suggesting that he is a "parasite".

I have been involved with Microchip and discussed release of information for
books; nobody I have talked to has been anything other than reasonable.  I
would like to know from Starfire; has he contacted Microchip at all?

Ideally, I would like to see Starfire's products advertised as "PICMicro
Compatible"; nothing could be better for the PICMicro consumer (us),
Microchip and Starfire himself.

myke

Steven Hunter's "The Second Saladin" is my Book of the Week.

http://www.myke.com/Book_Room/book1a.htm

Also look at:

http://www.myke.com/My_Books/homcu.htm

for information on "Handbook of Microcontrollers" which has been named the
Main Selection for November 1998 for the Electronics Book Club!

1998\10\28@124301 by John Griessen

flavicon
face
This is just like Don Lancaster says in his Case Against Patents files!

Thanks for your thoughts.  I'm back to reality now after flaming Zhu for
making me feel like he'd somehow snag my PIC code over the Internet while I
sleep...He'll probably only do his decode service for mega products like TV
remotes, and they expect the competition, and have more work than they can
handle in the higher end stuff, so an insider said recently.

John Griessen

{Original Message removed}

1998\10\28@133942 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
Hello,

 I have read some of the arguments here, and I have to say what I see so
far:

 From the way Zhu formulated the technical part of the description, those
parts are not physical copies of anything, they are functionally
compatible parts. The extra clock and wake-up options mean, that their
dies are different from Microchip's.

 The matching pin-out is not a coincidence but no-one patents pin-outs ?
Maybe someone should if he is concerned. That may help.

 Instruction sets cannot be patented at all, because if they translate to
binary codes, and one swaps a few data bits and adds 3-4 instructions it's
all different. No-one can patent numbers per se, or so I know. It would be
interesting to know, from those who have reported use of the clones,
whether the image file grew or shrunk as a result of the 'filter'
manipulations applied. It is possible that there is an oops in the silicon
and that some instructions need to be replaced by a combination of others
or such, as they don't work right.

 Functional information must be released by the manufacturers, as
otherwise independent developers can't work. So everyone has got it.

 So, that's it. You take an existing design's functional description, let
your (poorly paid) engineers loose on it, make your own implementation and
sell for less. If the pin-out is not copyrighted then you can use the same
and advertise plug-in compatibility. If the code is a slight variation on
the original-who can help it ? There are only so many ways to arrange bits
in a word.

 Of course this is bad, but flaming a middleman who is probably trying to
make a dollar or two out of acting as a middleman is not my idea of a good
reaction to this. I don't think that Zhu is making the chips in his cellar
although who knows ? ;)

 As to re: reverse engineering, I suppose that having people use 'his'
dies may help mr Zhu to find other's code easier but even that is beyond
the point.

 The point is, that that was unwelcome commercial spam on the Piclist,
and that it should not start a flame-war and advocacy issues on this list.
I've emailed Zhu privately and asked him to stop sending the requested
'technical data' briefs to the list, but to reply privately. He did so.

I hope that this matter will be settled soon, somehow,

regards,

Peter

1998\10\28@154917 by dparker

picon face
myke predko wrote:
>
> Hi Justin,
>
> I appreciate your reply and you bring up some interesting points.
>
> Why do you assume that patents filed in 1995/6 cannot be applied to 12C5x
> parts?  From my understanding of US patent law, information that was held
> proprietary within a company and not disclosed to outside companies (an NDA
> may be acceptable, but I think there are issues with this) can be patented
> at any time.
>
>
A Patent must be applied for within a year of disclosure or else it is
invalid.
--
Donald C. Parker, Keystone Applications, Brooklyn, WI Phone:
608-835-9264
Primary Inet:
.....dparkerKILLspamspam@spam@execpc.com
Secondary:
parkerspamKILLspamacm.org
WWW:
http://acm.org/~parker/homepage.html

Feb. 28: Near Waco, Texas, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and
Firearms, suspecting firearms violations in the Branch Davidian
compound,
smoothly execute an action plan masterminded by Wile E.
Coyote.
                                       Dave Barry, 1993 in Review

1998\10\28@184603 by Eric Smith
flavicon
face
myke predko <.....mykeKILLspamspam.....PASSPORT.CA> wrote:
> Why do you assume that patents filed in 1995/6 cannot be applied to 12C5x
> parts?  From my understanding of US patent law, information that was held
> proprietary within a company and not disclosed to outside companies (an NDA
> may be acceptable, but I think there are issues with this) can be patented
> at any time.

No.  Patent applications must be filed within one year of the date of the
invention.  While sometimes it is difficult to establish the date, publicly
selling products incorporating the invention certainly establishes a limit
on how recent it could have been.

> I'm thinking of where the PC market would be if Hayes had "protected" the AT
> command set,

They did get a patent on the escape sequence (a delay followed by a special
string of characters followed by another delay).  They forced other modem
makers to either license their patent or work around it.  This led to many
modem makers adopting TIES (Timing-Independent Escape Sequence), which was
a piece of crap because it could be (and often was) falsely triggered by real
user data.

> or IBM had patented ISA (look what happened with MCA).

How could they patent "ISA"?  It was a straightforward implementation of
the Intel x86 bus almost directly out of Intel's application notes.  The
only novel thing they did was to f*#$ up interrupts by making them edge
triggered instead of level triggered.

> Starfire's career seems to be based on using other's work without
> acknowledging the original owners (or paying royalties to the owners).  Now,
> I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any information to the contrary.

Information to the contrary is not necessary.  I don't have any proof that
you're *not* a mass murderer.  Would you like to have to prove such an
assertion in a courtroom?

Even in a civil case, the plaintif must present solid evidence, not merely
accusations.

If Microchip believes that Starfire is infringing their patents, it is up
to Microchip to sue them.  It is not up to you and I to make that decision.

> This is what I find reprehensible and feel that I can complain about.

So you're saying that it is OK (and even good) that a zillion companies
cloned PCs, but that it's bad that one small company cloned a PIC?

> Now, if Starfire has been in contact with Microchip and has either not
> infringed on protected property or has their permission to use it, then I
> would apologise for suggesting that he is a "parasite".

As I pointed out above, our opinions about this aren't particularly
important.  However, since you gave yours, I'll give mine:

You haven't established that there is any intellectual property to protect.
The PIC1654 design is more than 20 years old.  The CMOS part is more recent,
but didn't add much in the way of new and novel concepts.  About the only
patent Microchip has that may be relevant is the one that covers the way
that code-protected data is read back (scrambled) for verification purposes,
and I'm not sure that one would be enforceable since there is a lot of
prior art in that area.

Eric

1998\10\28@193333 by Russell McMahon

picon face
Myke

As I understand patents, once the subject has been "disclosed"
publicly, under US law you have one year to file patent claims. In my
country disclosure (stupidly) makes patenting immediately
impossible!.

Many of the items listed by Myke were visible externally or obvious
from data sheets and/or operation so, to my mind, were well disclosed
and therefore, I would assume, unpatentable a year after that.


Russell McMahon.

From: myke predko <EraseMEmykespam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTPASSPORT.CA>


>Why do you assume that patents filed in 1995/6 cannot be applied to
12C5x
>parts?  From my understanding of US patent law, information that was
held
>proprietary within a company and not disclosed to outside companies
(an NDA
>may be acceptable, but I think there are issues with this) can be
patented
>at any time.

1998\10\28@200628 by Eduardo R.

flavicon
face
Has anybody seen at least ONE of the chips produced by Starfire Zhu ?
What if those chips, deserving reproach and punishment, exist in his mind only?
And some guys here (already) presuming  that he should be sued...
" Happy of those who fears The Lord "
                    Humbleness is the clue.
         ________  ________  ________
        /         /       / /       /
       /_____    /_______/ /_______/
      /         /  \      / \
     /________ /    \    /   \
     ICQ# 10909825   \_ /     \___________
     eriveraspamspam_OUTumemphis.campus.mci.net

1998\10\28@222210 by NCS Products

flavicon
face
> Has anybody seen at least ONE of the chips produced by Starfire Zhu ?
>What if those chips, deserving reproach and punishment, exist in his mind
only?
>And some guys here (already) presuming  that he should be sued...

Anyone who calls himself "Starfire" can't be all bad!

Perhaps Starfire Zhu is a Lao-Tzu for the microchip world.

"He that calls it a PIC denies its essence, he who calls it not a PIC
denies its functionality, now what will you call it?" - PIC Koan.

1998\10\28@225913 by Sean Breheny

face picon face
>"He that calls it a PIC denies its essence, he who calls it not a PIC
>denies its functionality, now what will you call it?" - PIC Koan.
>

"Semper illos PICos in machinis totis meis millitaris utor"
       -Gauis Iulius Caesar, De Bello Galico, 20 A.D.


+-------------------------------+
| Sean Breheny                  |
| Amateur Radio Callsign: KA3YXM|
| Electrical Engineering Student|
+-------------------------------+
Save lives, please look at http://www.all.org
Personal page: http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/shb7
@spam@shb7KILLspamspamcornell.edu  Phone(USA): (607) 253-0315 ICQ #: 3329174

1998\10\29@025540 by Sean Breheny

face picon face
>"Semper illos PICos in machinis totis meis millitaris utor"
>       -Gauis Iulius Caesar, De Bello Galico, 20 A.D.

OOPS!! I guess I shouldn't make lame attempts at humor in the early
morning. That date should be much earlier, around 60 B.C. <G>

Sean

+-------------------------------+
| Sean Breheny                  |
| Amateur Radio Callsign: KA3YXM|
| Electrical Engineering Student|
+-------------------------------+
Save lives, please look at http://www.all.org
Personal page: http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/shb7
KILLspamshb7KILLspamspamcornell.edu  Phone(USA): (607) 253-0315 ICQ #: 3329174

1998\10\29@040618 by g.daniel.invent.design

flavicon
face
Russell McMahon wrote:
>
> Myke
>
> As I understand patents, once the subject has been "disclosed"
> publicly, under US law you have one year to file patent claims. In my
> country disclosure (stupidly) makes patenting immediately
> impossible!.
>
> Russell McMahon.

Glad to see others don't like the patent catch 22 either !

Else I might be already wealthy....

regards,
Graham Daniel.

1998\10\29@125603 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
Does selling a product actually count as "disclosing" the invention?  After
all, one can have an amazing "microcontroller with few external components"
without having disclosed what you've done to make that possible.  In the
patent itself, you're actually supposed to explain how it is done.

A patent portfolio is a defensive manuver as well (and especially if you
succeed in getting "trivial" patents.)  Implement high technology and sooner
or later someone will claim that you've infringed their patents, and the
best way out of that mess is to be able to come up with a cross-license that
leaves everyone pretty much doing the same thing they used to do.

BillW

1998\10\30@092537 by Wayne Foletta

flavicon
face
Myke:

Having gone through the patent process a number of times I can tell you that the
"patent clock" starts the moment the invention is first demonstrated in public
or offered for sale. The time limit is one year to file a disclosure
application. If not filed after that time limit everything becomes public domain
information. A NDA does not prevent the clock from starting if the invention was
in physical form or "reduced to practice". The only way to extend the time limit
beyond one year is to improve upon the basic or core part of the invention. But
that is not often successful.

Sincerely,
Wayne Foletta
SiliconSoft, Inc.

myke predko wrote:

{Quote hidden}

1998\10\31@030208 by Russell McMahon

picon face
I imagine that patents that describe using clock pins for
programming, or using i/o pins for programming, and similar
capabilities pretty much disclose themselves when the data sheet is
read.


Russell

From: William Chops Westfield <RemoveMEbillwTakeThisOuTspamCISCO.COM>

>Does selling a product actually count as "disclosing" the invention?

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