In a meeting with TI executives, theme recurring theme was “guard your IP, assuming you know what your IP is.” The question that came up more than once was, “what exactly is your IP.” The strongest opinions came from TI Principal Fellow Gene Franz and Chief DSP Architect Ray Simar.
One strong argument is that your IP is the logic that you put down into silicon that makes a system operate at levels that best the competition. But a very compelling argument can be made for the IP that's in the minds of your design team. The real answer is likely that it's both, and both need to be guarded very closely, but we know that the “guarding” method for each is quite different.
When you really get down to the brass tacks of a system, the materials that are inside that system cost very little, almost nothing relative to what you're actually paying for that system. Take a modern handset with all the bells and whistles, for example. The plastics, metals, silicon, etc., can likely be measured in pennies. However, removing the subsidies from the carriers, that system sells for a couple hundred bucks, at best. Hence, it becomes plainly clear that what the consumer is paying for as a consumer is the IP that goes into those materials. Again, it's easy to argue for both types of IP discussed above.
One more possibility, one offered by Franz, is that his company's IP lies in its architectures and development environments. That likely ties all the various IP together into one cohesive package, combining the IP on the board with the IP between the ears.
Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine. He can be reached at .