Altera sues Clear Logic for unlawful use of technology

Altera sues Clear Logic for unlawful use of technologyRichard Ball
Altera is suing Clear Logic, the US firm that offers an Asic replacement service for Altera’s FPGAs.
Clear Logic is using Altera’s technology without permission, alleges the programmable logic firm. However, no mention is made of patent infringement in the lawsuit.
“We think they are infringing on our mask works and layout,” said Lance Lissner, v-p of investor relations at Altera.
Semiconductor companies have copyright protection on their masks, said Lissner. He alleges these have been copied by Clear Logic to form their Asics.
Clear Logic vigorously denies the allegation. “Clearly we think this lawsuit is without merit,” Al Huggins, CEO of Clear Logic, told Electronics Weekly.
“We’ve been scrupulous in our behaviour, and the way we designed our technology,” added Don Knowlton, v-p of marketing at Clear Logic.
The only reason for bringing such a lawsuit, said Huggins, is because Clear Logic is taking business away from Altera. “If we were irrelevant in the market-place, this lawsuit would not have happened,” claims Huggins.
Altera also claims that Clear Logic has been interfering in relationships with its customers. Huggins said this was fair competition, offering customers a choice.
Clear Logic sells in the UK through Azzurri Technology. “In the last six to nine months it (business) has really started to take off,” said Azzurri’s Richard Diskin.
Launched in January 1998, Clear Logic provides an FPGA to Asic conversion for Altera’s FLEX devices. It claims the resulting chips are half the cost and power of the original FPGAs.
Asics mimic the layout of a FLEX chip but replace the six-transistor programmable switches with smaller fuses.
A laser is used at the final manufacturing stages to blow the fuses and create the required logic.

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