Avant!, 7 execs plead no contest

For almost five years I worked in the EDA industry (Engineering Design Automation) on software to simulate VLSI chip designs. At Synopsys I worked on the HDL Compiler and at Quickturn/Cadence I worked on SimServer, which was an attempt to use hardware acceleration to dramatically increase the speed of behavioral Verilog and VHDL simulation.

There was a great deal of talk in the EDA industry about Avant! from the time it was founded. Cadence, and later the Santa Clara District Attorney's office, alleged that Avant! had stolen the initial place and route software that went into Avant's initial product from Cadence. The case went on for years, with Avant denying everything. But the rummors were that the Avant CEO Gerald Hsu was unprincipled and that the alligations were probably true.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2001 Hsu and seven other Avant employees pleaded no contest to the charges. The DA apparently had enough of a case that they felt that they had to make the best deal they could. For the San Jose Mercury News article, click here. Dan Gilmore also of the The Mercury New and one of the finest editorial writers on technical issues in print, wrote Maybe we need a corporate death penalty

The level of morals in the EDA industry is pretty sad. During the attempted hostile takeover of Quickturn by Mentor graphics, a judge commented that the Mentor CEO, Wally Rains, gave testamony that was not "credible" (Judge speak for "he's lying"). Mentor later paid Aptix to sue Quickturn on the basis of an Aptix patent. The executives of Aptix forged evidence and the company was fined as a result.

Other references

Ian Kaplan, May 2001
Revised: November 2001

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