Microchip looses the plot ?

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   This in the news:

"Microchip sues Zilog over 8-pin microcontrollers"

and it's not April 1st ?

  Microchip used to be an engineering focused company, who took
a small Micrcontroller core, and used it very well.

  Now, it seems Zilog must be taking a chunk of their pie, and
they cannot compete on technical merit alone ?

  So, let's glance at what innovation they claim to have ?

6,696,316  Filed:  November 18, 2002
  Integrated circuit (IC) package with a microcontroller having an n-bit
bus and up to n-pins coupled to the microcontroller
"By using pins with multiple functions, the instant invention permits an
n-bit architecture microcontroller to use less than or equal to n pins."

  6,483,183 Granted November 19, 2002
  Integrated circuit (IC) package with a microcontroller having an n-bit
bus and up to n-pins coupled to the microcontroller
"By using pins with multiple functions, the instant invention permits an
n-bit architecture microcontroller to use less than or equal to n pins."

5,847,450  Granted December 8, 1998
  Microcontroller having an n-bit data bus width with less than n I/O pins
"2. Description of the Related Art

"Microcontrollers are widely known and used in many different
applications. A typical architecture used in microcontrollers today is
the 8-bit architecture (i.e. the data bus width of the microcontroller
is 8 bits wide)."

" One problem with this and other sizes of microcontrollers is that to
support an n-bit architecture, greater than n pins are required to be
connected to the microcontroller."

  ROTFL, What nonsense!. Microcontrollers are typified by having ON CHIP
  memory, and have _never_ had any bus-related pin-connection limit!

  Why should the BUS width have ANY relation to the pin count in a
Microcontroller ? - that's as sensible as claiming invention for a car
that has fewer (or more?) wheels than cylinders ?!

  Even the Intel 4004 used multi function pins, so prior art there goes
back a very long way indeed.

  Large volumes of ROM based microcontrollers will have been shipped
over the years, quite happily operating with less connected pins than
the bus width.

  The ancient 8-bit 8048 used 4 pins with the 8243 IO expander...

  Prediction:  This silliness will make Microhip a laughing stock in the
engineering area, and probably not make their stock holders too happy

  They are going to have to sue Atmel, Fairchild, Philips ( and others )
as well..... this will be amusing to follow. [What _was_ Steve thinking?]


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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You've referred to and quoted the patents Microchip are suing over.

You've been in this business long enough to know that the Abstract and
the Body of the Patent are *not* the Claims of the patent.

Yet you're pulling sentences from the Abstract and Body to make your

I don't know the validity of the suit.

I *do* know that it will be fought on the *CLAIMS* of the patent.

If you want us to take the argument you're proposing seriously, how
about you repost it with Claim 1 substituted for your current quote from
the patent?

At least then you would have given us *enough* *information* to consider
the story...

cheers, Rich. [Yes, I use PICs. Hell, I use Cypress stuff, VIA stuff, ...]

rich walker         |  Shadow Robot Company | snipped-for-privacy@shadow.org.uk
technical director     251 Liverpool Road   |
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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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  This stuff is public domain, and I gave the Patent numbers, so it is
real easy to look this up, at uspto.....

but under claims, 1, we have

"What is claimed is:
1. An Integrated Circuit (IC) package comprising, in combination:
an IC chip with a microcontroller having a data bus;

a first pin electrically coupled to said microcontroller wherein said
first pin functions as a power supply pin;

a second pin electrically coupled to said microcontroller wherein said
second pin functions as a grounding pin; and

a plurality of third pins electrically coupled to said microcontroller
wherein said plurality of third pins are function pins, at least one of
said plurality of third pins being a multiple function pin, a total
number of said first pin, said second pin, and said plurality of third
pins is at least three and one of less than or equal to a bus width of
said data bus. "

  Read the whole patent(s), and ponder just how much prior art there
is, and how "those skilled in the art" would consider this
a complete no-brainer.

  The legal teams will do well, and Zilog will get a lot of free
publicity, but this so clearly lacks merit that it can only make
Microchip's senior management look plain silly/stupid.

  I will follow this with keen interest.


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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Don't you think it makes the Patent Office look like clueless muppets?

Shouldn't there be some system in place, such as "3-strikes and you're
out" - where any patent clerk that achieves 3 successfully-challenged
patents should be removed from their position?

Is it possible to sue the Patent Office for damages due to the issuing of
dumb patents and the negative publicity a 'stupid' patent claim can have?
If not, it should be.

Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
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You would be doing him a favor.

What would be the upside? The patent office is already a sucky place to work,
probably the engineering employer of last resort.

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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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It does not make Zilog et al look to bright. Any semi manufacturer worth his
salt will have a watch on patent applications by their competitors. Before
the patent is granted there is an opportunity for them to object to the
patent - in this case on the grounds of prior art. I wonder why they didn't
because it is hard to see how it would have been granted if they had


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
I thought that the patent clerk was supposed to do a search for prior art.
If they don't carry out a good search, they are doing a disservice to all
granted patentee's that have already paid out money to the Patent Office.

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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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They are supposed to. Several of my patents were challenged by the patent
office on the grounds of prior art, which they cite. You have to
demonstrate either a material difference in your invention or say why the
prior art does not apply.

I get the impression that applications for US patents are handled
differently depending on who the applicant is.


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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...Or perhaps how the applicant _treats_ them.

I've been a passive observer of the _handling_ of patent clerks...
where a lot was done to _help_ them decide in favor.  (I suppose it
could be called, "perks for clerks.")  When you are paying your patent
attorneys 50k/month and more, there's a lot of cash-flow available.
May have been an unusual circumstance I saw, though.  Can't say.


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
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Yes, but that's a no-contest anyway :)

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Remember, they are only clerks...

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Patents are merely a license to litigate; some companies collect patents
because it helps the stockholder/investment side.
It they are never contested, it does not matter how 'stupid' they are.

Patents also need to be actively protected/defended. Microchip also are
on thin-ice, because they appear to have waited rather a long time to
activate this one (5,847,450).
Why little Zilog ? Did they annoy Microchip some way ?

I should also add Motorola(Freescale), EM Marin, the Watch industry, and
pretty much the whole smart card industry, as targets Microchip will
have to sue, to show diligent defense of this patent. [IO <= BUSn]

The big mistake here, is that Microchip are staking a chunk their
credibility, on a flimsy patent that they _have_ to hope never actually
reaches open court. What was Steve thinking ?


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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Let's see. The patent office makes lots of money on issuing patents and
maintaining them, so much so that congress is tapping the USPO for funds
to run other government functions. If the patent office issues a "bad"
patent, such as two patents that clearly duplicate each other (which
has occurred often), not only does it take years before such patents
are ruled invalid, but the USPO suffers no penalties for issuing such
patents. They don't even have to refund fees charged for the invalidated

Now, WHY should the USPO care about bad patents ?

Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
I realise that - the implication was that this should be _impossed_ on the
Patent Office.

If American courts allow people that are stupic enough to burn themselves
with hot coffee to sue the vendor, then I can's see why an inventor or an
average programmer shouldn't sue the Patent Office for issuing a dumb

That stupid woman should have been banned from visiting all establishments
serving hot food for her own protection, btw.

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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
Lets see. "someone should stop them". Clearly "thems" is "lawyers". Is
the USPO going to police themselves? Clearly not. How about congress?
Well, ignoring for a moment that congress set up the current mess as it
is, and that congress is getting money out of it as well, congress is...
lawyers. Perhaps the real answer is that: The USPO fees are small change
compared to lawyer fees made by guiding companies through the getting
of a patent, the fighting over them, etc. And lawyers become congressmen
and women. The system is run by lawyers, for lawyers. The lawyers don't
know beans about technology, but they plan to profit from it (and do).

Joe Butler wrote:
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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
On Mon, 15 Aug 2005 20:31:50 +0100, "Joe Butler"

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If you knew the details of the case, you wouldn't have used this
example to make your point.


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
OK, now that I've done a search, I withdraw the statement about the woman.

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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
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That case is an urban myth. Can you put the reality in a nutshell here
to save the rest of us having to search for it?

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\/\/\/\/\ Chris Hills  Staffs  England     /\/\/\/\/
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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?

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Sigh.  Google is your friend.

"mcdonalds coffee lawsuit" turned up http://lawandhelp.com/q298-2.htm
(McFacts about the McDonalds Coffee Lawsuit) as the first hit.  From
that page:

McFact No. 1:  For years, McDonald's had known they had a problem with
the way they make their coffee - that their coffee was served much
hotter (at least 20 degrees more so) than at other restaurants.

McFact No. 2:  McDonald's knew its coffee sometimes caused serious
injuries - more than 700 incidents of scalding coffee burns in the
past decade have been settled by the Corporation - and yet they never
so much as consulted a burn expert regarding the issue.

McFact No. 3:  The woman involved in this infamous case suffered very
serious injuries - third degree burns on her groin, thighs and
buttocks that required skin grafts and a seven-day hospital stay.

McFact No. 4:  The woman, an 81-year old former department store clerk
who had never before filed suit against anyone, said she wouldn't have
brought the lawsuit against McDonald's had the Corporation not
dismissed her request for compensation for medical bills.

McFact No. 5:  A McDonald's quality assurance manager testified in the
case that the Corporation was aware of the risk of serving dangerously
hot coffee and had no plans to either turn down the heat or to post
warning about the possibility of severe burns, even though most
customers wouldn't think it was possible.

McFact No. 6:  After careful deliberation, the jury found McDonald's
was liable because the facts were overwhelmingly against the company.
When it came to the punitive damages, the jury found that McDonald's
had engaged in willful, reckless, malicious, or wanton conduct, and
rendered a punitive damage award of 2.7 million dollars. (The
equivalent of just two days of coffee sales, McDonalds Corporation
generates revenues in excess of 1.3 million dollars daily from the
sale of its coffee, selling 1 billion cups each year.)

McFact No. 7:  On appeal, a judge lowered the award to $480,000, a
fact not widely publicized in the media.

McFact No. 8:  A report in Liability Week, September 29, 1997,
indicated that Kathleen Gilliam, 73, suffered first degree burns when
a cup of coffee spilled onto her lap. Reports also indicate that
McDonald's consistently keeps its coffee at 185 degrees, still
approximately 20 degrees hotter than at other restaurants. Third
degree burns occur at this temperature in just two to seven seconds,
requiring skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments that
cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in permanent
disfigurement, extreme pain and disability to the victims for many
months, and in some cases, years.


Change is inevitable, progress is not.

Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
On Tue, 16 Aug 2005 17:34:45 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Dave Hansen)

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I'll add that McDonalds had already (and within the last year, if I
recall) hired someone (either directly, or through their investigating
attorney's office) to run around and sample coffee temperatures in the
same local area (this wasn't their first such case there.)  That
investigator's report became a part of this case and it supported the
plaintiff's own similar investigations.  But more to the point, it
showed that these 15-20 degree differences in coffee temperatures,
other vendors compared to McDonald's, weren't news to McDonalds

Medical specialists pointed out that this difference in temperature is
what goes from "3rd degree burns after many minutes of contact" to
"3rd degree burns in a few seconds of contact."  In other words, it
makes the difference between whether someone has a chance to do
something about it, or not.

Also, beyond the quality assurance manager testimony about being aware
of the risks, there was a memo I believe that surfaced showing that
the purpose of the higher temperature was _saving money_ on the coffee
beans consumed.  They could get a few more cups out of it with the
higher temperatures they used.

In short, they willfully chose to expose people to a much higher risk
for a slight profit advantage and they did so despite having had past
serious events brought to their attention -- these past events
spanning back some 10 years, if I recall.

Even all that, I suppose, wouldn't necessarily mean that they should
be held responsible -- if it were the case that McDonalds in that area
was behaving like other vendors.  If it were the case that their
behavior was "normal practice," then it is somewhat possible that the
burden would have shifted to the buyers, if it were normal practice
and so many people so regularly managed to safely handle the dangerous
products.  But their behavior was way out of the bounds of other
companies selling similar products.  It was unique.

Put all this together and there are few cases with an outcome so
clearly correct as this one.

It's not just a bad example of a court case gone awry.  It's one of
the few worst possible examples of that.  It's actually a clear case
of why people NEED to have access to the courts.


Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
I buy coffee from Mcdonald's. In fact, thats about all I buy from them,
their food is atrocious. I figured out rapidly that their coffee is
extraordinarily hot. I never attributed it to anything other than
that Mcdonalds was trying to overcome the typical issue with fast food
restaurants that the coffee temperature comes to you all over the map,
from lukewarm to hot. I think the first time I got it, a slightly burned
tounge was all that I needed to realize that the coffee needed to sit
in the cup holder of the car while it cooled off.

This lady was handling hot coffee while driving a car. Why didn't she also
sue the car company for not having a warning on the dashboard not to
handle food while driving ?

The upshot of the case is that fast food outlets have warnings on coffee
cups that "the contents may be hot", something any moron could have
figured out. We have warnings on ladders not to place them on unstable
ground because some idiot placed one on cowshit then fell off the ladder.
We have warnings on the edge of lawnmowers because some mental zero
picked one up while running and tried to use it as a hedge trimmer
(these are all true cases). We have warnings not to hang yourself with
bathroom towels, eat packing materials, tie plastic bags over your
head, sniff the contents of hair spray, and other goodies that should,
by rights be left unlabeled so as to advance the good works of Darwinisim
in the world.

All of these warnings are useful. However, the lawyers in America
are advancing a nanny state while lining their pockets and creating
a contest winner mentality in the court system.

What is needed is a warning label on lawyers that says "warning, use
of contents may cause severe financial deprivation".

Dave Hansen wrote:
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Re: Microchip looses the plot ?
On Tue, 16 Aug 2005 12:28:31 -0700, Scott Moore

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Bone up on the facts a little before you spout nonsense.  

1) She was a passenger, not the driver.  

2) The car was parked.  

3) The woman received third degree burns over more than 6% of her
body, requiring a seven-day hospital stay including whirlpool
treatments, debriding (look it up), and skin grafts.

4) Before contacting a lawyer or filing suit, she tried to settle with
McDonalds for her medical expenses -- about $20,000.

Were you aware that contact with the coffee at the temperature
McDonalds served it would cause a third degree (full thickness) burn
within two to seven seconds?  McDonalds was.  They had reports of over
700 incidents, several similar to the subject case, and had spent
about $500,000 settling some of them.

After she brought suit, two mediators recommended McDonalds settle for
about $230,000.  McDonalds refused.  

At trial, a McDonalds executive admitted the company knew its coffee
was served at a temperature about 20 degrees (F) higher than most
restaurants, and that the possibility of severe burns was much greater
at that temperature, but decided to do nothing about it.

McDonalds knew of the risk and knew scores of injured customers, but
did nothing to mitigate the chance of injury.

The jury found compensatory damages in the subject incident of
$200,000, of which McDonalds was found to be 80% responsible, reducing
the award to $160,000.  The remaining damages were for the company's
"willful, reckless, malicious or wanton conduct."  The amount
($2,700,000) was chosen as representing the company's revenue for 2
days worth of coffee sales.

The award was reduced on appeal to less than $500,000.  And was
subsequently settled (secretly) out of court to avoid further appeals.

I'm no fan of frivolous lawsuits, but IHMO, this ain't one of them.
McDonalds knew there was a problem, had several opportunities to get
out from under it, but through corporate inertia (or just plain
arrogance) decided not to.


Change is inevitable, progress is not.

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