The most unexpected news on Monday came from the Darnell Group’s Digital Power Forum, being held this week in Santa Ana, Calif. A company offering digital point-of-load (POL) regulator modules that use PMBus for control and telemetry has been licensed to use Power-One’s Zbus patents. Previously, Power-One won a lawsuit against customers of Artesyn (which has since become part of Emerson Network Power) for infringing its patents by using PMBus (see “Expect Big Changes In Digital POLs And Energy Harvesting,” ED Online 17899). At the time, I asked Power-One’s then-executive vice president Dave Hage if his company would be licensing its technology to other companies that wanted to use PMBus for POLs. It said in that article that Hage, “played his hand close to his chest, saying only that anyone who was thinking about digital control of POLs should talk to Power-One first,” and noted, “This seems to imply that Power-One is a lot more interested in filling sockets than in collecting licensing fees.”
However, at the forum on Monday, the V-infinity division of CUI Inc. a power-supply manufacturer that serves a large, mostly North-American customer base through DigiKey, announced that it is developing a line of digital POL modules that will utilize power-conversion ICs from Powervation. For information on the ICs, which provide adaptive compensation, see: “Adaptive Control IC Creates Self-Adjusting DC-DC Converters,” http://powerelectronics.com/power_management/power_adaptive_control_ic_0809/index.html.
(In fact, Powervation’s license from Power-One had been announced in late August by Electronic Design’s sister publication, Power Electronics Technology (see “Power-One Inc. and Powervation Ltd Announce Patent License,” http://powerelectronics.com/power_management/power-one-inc-powervation-announces-patent-082609/index.html, but that announcement had apparently been missed by everyone I spoke with at the conference.)
As announced in V-Infinity’s release, the company’s new Novum series modules will combine high power density and a compact footprint. In addition, Powervation’s “auto-control” technology will allow the new modules to work in real time, ensuring stability and improved transient responsiveness. The claim was borne out by a demo in a conference room at the conference that included a cleanly designed graphical user interface for using the PMBus for programming, telemetry, and control.
In a general roundtable discussion at the Digital Power Forum late Monday afternoon, Power-One’s current executive vice president and IP manager said in response to a question that the company had never intended to do more than assert its patent claims and that it was prepared to discuss licensing agreements on a case-by-case basis.