Mentor Graphics Beats Synopsys in Court, Raises Patent Questions

Court awards Mentor $36M in damages. Is patent law going back and forth about software patents?

Mentor Graphics has won a patent case against Synopsys over their emulators and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) synthesis tools.

As a result, Synopsys will be banned from selling, licensing, leasing, importing, or making emulation technology in the U.S. as it will infringe on Mentor’s patent. Therefore, if you are a U.S. user of Synopsys’ technology you may want to contact your provider to ensure your software will be supported in the future.

Synopsys claimed that Mentor had infringed on their patents. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ended up invalidating Synopsys’ patents due to previous IP from Mentor. To add salt to the wound, Mentor was awarded $36 million in damages and were recommended to take further legal routes to determine supplemental damages.

How Synopsys was able to patent their technology in the first place if Mentor was already protected by a patent? Is the patent office and the patent petitioner doing their due diligence in the literature search?

Or perhaps the problem is with recent changes in patent law that force companies to publicly disclosure their IP after 18 months of filing an international patents. Patents restricted to the U.S., however, can remain secret. Nonetheless, will forcing companies to out their IP before protection is issued make it easier for people to steal your IP?

Deepak Hegde, assistant professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, studied the new patent rules and found that the changes did make better quality patents. He said, “When we examine indicators of patent value, we find consistent evidence that the least-valuable and least-impactful patents are those that opted for pre-grant secrecy.”

Hegde also found that even with the loophole that protects the secrecy of U.S.-based patents, most inventors prefer to release information after 18 months (see previous article). However, Hegde’s study did not address increases IP theft and counterfeiting.

Have we therefore found the answer? What do you think? Do we need to fix patent law to limit the number of disputes? Is it too easy to patent an IP? Have you been hit with a patent dispute or worse, run into a patent troll? Comment below.

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.