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Mentor attack on Cadence blown to bits

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Normally, legal tussles in the wacky world of EDA are pretty dull fare, but when a judge accuses one of the CEOs involved of widespread fraud, fabricating evidence and staging break ins to their own property...

Now pay attention at the back, this is a tad complex. When Chip designer Cadence bought out Quickturn just over a year ago, rival Mentor Graphics was mightily peeved. Mentor had made a hostile bid for Quickturn and Decadence took on the role of white knight in a boardroom tussle that lasted for months before Cadence finally emerged victorious.

Mentor vowed revenge and paid hardware verification outfit Aptix a million bucks to license a patent that would then allow them to sue Cadence/Quickturn for infringement. Mentor also loaned Aptix a further $3 million and even promised to pay all legal costs.

Mentor already had another patent infringement lawsuit underway against Quickturn, while Quickturn was suing Mentor in Europe over violations of European variants of Quickturn patents. Clear so far?

Now EE Times reports that a federal judge has accused Amr Mohsen, president and CEO of Aptix, of committing widespread fraud and as a result, the suit has been dismissed, and the patent in question ruled unenforceable.

This is a bit of a bugger for Aptix as not only is its top management more than likely in very serious trouble, but one of its key patents in the hardware emulation area is now unenforceable.

Amr Mohsen and his brother Aly allegedly fabricated entries in a 1989 engineering diary and created a completely fraudulent 1988 one. According to the court, the notebooks were faked to prove that the patent, dating from 1989, was based on an invention made by Amr Mohsen in the previous year.

Book 'em, Danno

Rather unfortunately, forensic testing proved otherwise, with all of the 1988 notebook and much of the 1989 one being forged. Some of the ink in the books was proved to have been manufactured after 1994, prompting Judge Alsup to accuse Mohsen of "a premeditated and prolonged effort to deceive the defendant and this court."

And then, as if by magic, the dodgy notebooks disappeared when Mohsen, alone in the Aptix parking lot, allegedly broke his own car window in a staged break in. He then produced collaborating documents, which the court also found to be faked.

It was never Mentor be this way

The Judge dismissed the entire complaint, ruled the patent unenforceable, and ordered Aptix to pay Quickturn's court costs. There was no immediate ruling on whether the Mohsens would face fraud charges.

Mentor claims the company knew nothing of the nefarious goings-on at Aptix, and when asked whether the patent was licensed for the sole purpose of suing Quickturn, a spokesman replied, "I don't know."

"This is a huge victory from our standpoint," said Smith McKeithen, senior vice-president and general counsel at Cadence.

Cadence's European Marketing Director, Mark Gallagher, put it more succinctly: "Some of this stuff is simply beyond belief." ®

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