Patent granted for "system on a chip" framework?

Discussion in 'VHDL' started by y_p_w, Aug 5, 2003.

  1. y_p_w

    y_p_w Guest

    The URL would be too long. It's patent 6,601,126, and
    is available at <>

    There was an EE Times (and other CMP websites) article about
    this story.


    This sounds fishy to me. I've personally worked on SoC designs
    using only uni-directional busses with various asynchronous
    peripherals - well before the time this patent was filed. I'd
    like to see PalmChip try to enforce this patent. The EET article
    also mentions that FPGAs have been using this kind of technology
    for a while.

    Here are some of the "claims" of the patent:

    "1. An on-chip interconnection system, comprising:

    a single semiconductor integrated circuit (IC);

    a plurality of uni-directional buses disposed in the IC;

    a peripheral-bus (p-bus) included in the plurality of uni-directional
    buses and that uses a simple non-pipelined protocol and supports both
    synchronous and asynchronous slave peripherals;

    a p-bus controller connected to the p-bus and constituting an only
    bus-master, and including a centralized address decoder for generating
    a dedicated peripheral select signal, and providing for a connection
    to synchronous and asynchronous slave peripherals, and further
    providing for an input/output (I/O) backplane that allows a processor
    to configure and control any of its slave peripherals; and

    an m-bus included in the plurality of uni-directional buses, and for
    providing a direct memory access (DMA) connection from any said slave
    peripherals to a main memory and permits peripherals to transfer data
    directly without processor intervention.

    2. The on-chip interconnection system of claim 1, wherein, there are
    included no tri-stated-buses, and no bi-directional buses.

    3. The on-chip interconnection system of claim 1, wherein, each signal
    has only a single buffer driver.

    4. The on-chip interconnection system of claim 1, wherein, any
    broadcast signals are re-driven by simple buffers with no extra
    control logic."
    y_p_w, Aug 5, 2003
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  2. y_p_w

    Austin Lesea Guest


    I, too, have my doubts on this one.

    Even though you may have used this prior to the patent, that would only
    allow you to continue using the technique without paying royalties. If no
    one published or "disclosed" the technique, then the patent could be
    valid. Hopefully you have a public published document prior to their
    "discovery"? That would kill it immediately.

    Since we have been using unidirectional interconnect since Virtex (about 5
    years ago now), with soft processor cores, and peripherals, I also believe
    that we (Xilinx) have a prior use claim. Since we also published that we
    implemented our "tri-state" buses with unidirectional interconnect in
    Virtex (as tristates were too slow), it makes this patent pretty dubious
    for any FPGA application.

    As well, any combination of cores uses single direction buses in Virtex
    and all subsequent families (for speed).

    But, if you can not point to a published article describing the technique
    in an ASIC/ASSP, then they just might "own it."

    Austin Lesea, Aug 5, 2003
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  3. y_p_w

    Jerry Guest

    Congratulations for USPTO: good work, boys! I've heard that the next
    patent in line is: "round device that minimizes friction while moving
    vehicles, a.k.a. wheel", granted for GM, of course...
    Jerry, Aug 5, 2003
  4. [...]

    Sounds an awful lot like the ARM-originated AMBA interconnect
    spec, which has been in the public domain for years.

    Nice reinforcement of my prejudices about patent examiners.
    Jonathan Bromley, Consultant

    DOULOS - Developing Design Know-how
    VHDL * Verilog * SystemC * Perl * Tcl/Tk * Verification * Project Services

    Doulos Ltd. Church Hatch, 22 Market Place, Ringwood, Hampshire, BH24 1AW, UK
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    The contents of this message may contain personal views which
    are not the views of Doulos Ltd., unless specifically stated.
    Jonathan Bromley, Aug 5, 2003
  5. y_p_w

    y_p_w Guest

    It was fairly obvious. I was working at a processor company that
    integrated an existing core with several external peripherals to
    emulate another processor. We used a lot of unidirectional
    communications with address decoders.
    I'm just curious as to whether a soft core implemented in an FPGA would
    be close enough to an SoC to make this patent's claims dubious regardless
    its use in any ASICs.
    The AMBA 2.0 spec was published by ARM in May 1999. There are probably
    several white papers, academic papers, and published web sites that
    outline similar SoC frameworks.
    y_p_w, Aug 5, 2003
  6. No surprise to me. Some guy out of MIT got a patent for the mechanics of
    the human arm (actually, any articulation-muscle mechanism on any animal on
    earth for the last several billion years).

    Face it, patents are business tools. They have nothing to do with invention
    any more. Very few things any more are inventions, most are
    implementations. Most are things that good engineers should be able to
    produce given a problem and related constraints.

    Oh well.

    Martin Euredjian

    To send private email:

    "0_0_0_0_" = "martineu"

    Martin Euredjian, Aug 6, 2003
  7. y_p_w

    y_p_w Guest

    That actually makes some sense, if the purpose was to create a
    mechanical replica - i.e. prosthetics or a robot arm. This new
    patent would seemingly describe a set of techniques that most
    engineers would never thought of patenting because they were
    (more or less) in the public domain.
    I wouldn't have any problems if someone actually took this idea from
    the world of FPGAs - extended it to SoC - and then patent the idea
    before anyone else had used it. However - this doesn't seem to be
    the case.

    I really hope this doesn't turn into the SCO Unix vs Linux fight.
    y_p_w, Aug 7, 2003
  8. Well, not in this case, at least in my opinion. It describes something they
    call "series elastic" actuators. Translation: store energy in a spring (or
    spring-like element) as opposed to having the motors directly drive the
    joint. In other words, a tendon. Using springs to store energy (or control
    force) has been in use for a long, long time, I think.

    Martin Euredjian

    To send private email:

    "0_0_0_0_" = "martineu"
    Martin Euredjian, Aug 7, 2003
  9. y_p_w

    Brad Eckert Guest

    Does a web site count as published? For example, are the cores at considered publicly published because they reside there?
    Brad Eckert, Aug 7, 2003
  10. y_p_w

    y_p_w Guest

    Your average desk lamp comes to mind. Garage door mechanisms are
    spring loaded too - the ones for solid garage door would seem to
    be similar to this "arm" mechanism.
    y_p_w, Aug 8, 2003
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