mannerisms

Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

ARM Dons The Armour Of MIPS IP

As ARM heads into markets controlled by other companies, it may need the armour of IP protection bestowed by today’s investment in patents held by MIPS.

ARM has put up $167.5 million to secure the protection of a chunk of MIPS patents.

ARM has paid the money to Allied Security Trust (AST) which is an anti-troll protection company.

AST is a member-funded entity which analyses patents which are up for sale, arranges for its members to put up the money to buy the patents, sells the patents to members and returns the proceeds to the contributing members.

AST members include HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Oracle, Philips, RIM and others. AST’s mission is to minimise the disruption to its members’ businesses caused by aggressive trolls which buy patents and then sue companies.

MIPS’ patents are important because MIPS inherited the Berkeley RISC technology developed in the early 1980s first at the University of California at Berkeley and then at Stanford University.

As ARM seeks to move its processors into servers, computers and networking, it will need to protect itself from disruptive litigation.

“Litigation is expensive and time-consuming and, in this case, a collective approach with other major industry players was the best way to remove that risk,” says ARM CEO Warren East.

Imagination Technologies has put up $60 million to secure a chunk of MIPS microprocessor patents, perpetual royalty-free rights to all ARM’s former MIPS patents, and the right to take over the business operations of MIPS and its 160 engineers.

Whether this signals an attempt by Imagination to achieve in the market what MIPS couldn’t achieve, or whether it is, like ARM, merely indulging in a defensive play, is not yet known.

Tags: armour, california at berkeley, chunk, collective approach, royalty

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6 Comments

  1. David Manners
    November 07, 2012 11:51

    Well I suppose any MIPS patents filed before 1992 are up for grabs, Sergei, Angstrem could take that 90nm IBM process and make MIPS-based SOCs for end-products for the world market.

  2. ewelec
    November 07, 2012 11:45

    David, how about access to MIPS technologies after filings dropped? I thought (and my friends developers did) that some of them are now in public domain?

  3. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 16:01

    Well I assume this AST crowd know their stuff and have decided there’s enough there to make it worthwhile for ARM and Imagination, SEPAM, But even if the IP’s not that much use, it at least stops a troll from buying it and using the post-1992 patents to sue ARM and Imagination.

  4. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan
    November 06, 2012 15:33

    I just did a quick and dirty check for international patent applications filed by MIPS and it seems their filings dropped dramatically around 2006. Many of these patents are therefore probably rather old.

  5. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 15:16

    Absolutely, El Rupester, it’s a shrewd, well-timed, wisely executed move which could make ARM-IMG-MIPS a significant presence in the world electronics industry which is something the UK hasn’t had since Ferranti, Plessey, Thorn, EMI, Decca and GEC went for a Burton. But will ARM and IMG fight together or fight eachother?

  6. El Rupester
    November 06, 2012 14:55

    That is good.
    It is nice to read of people using IP constructively, to cooperate and to fight trolls.
    And having both ARM and IMG+MIPS as UK companies is one great boost to strength of UK plc in electronics isn’t it?