Litigation And Launches—All In A Day’s Work

April 23, 2013
Paul Whytock discusses the latest patent battle in the power industry.

Power Integrations (PI), a specialist in high-voltage power-conversion ICs, has been rather busy of late. Not only has this California-based company been developing and launching new products, it’s also fought a major legal battle with Fairchild Semiconductor. All the while, it still traded well in 2012, a year that many pundits predicted would be very tough and perhaps lethal for some electronics companies.
In its legal wrangle, U.S. courts sided with PI in the company’s 2004 patent-infringement lawsuit against Fairchild Semiconductor. The federal court even noted that, according to information from PI, Fairchild “fostered a corporate culture of copying.” The decision resulted in a permanent injunction against more than 100 infringing Fairchild products.

It follows a series of rulings favouring PI. In 2012, a jury found that Fairchild infringed two of the same patents previously found to be infringed in the 2004 case, implicating 75 additional Fairchild products. Power Integrations will seek damages and an injunction against those infringing products as well.

In 2006, the International Trade Commission (ITC) found that System General (SG), later acquired by Fairchild, infringed two PI patents and issued an exclusion order barring SG’s importation of the infringing products into the U.S. market. Then in December 2012, in a case brought by Fairchild against Power Integrations, a Chinese court ruled that Power Integrations did not infringe any of the patents asserted by Fairchild.

Product Innovation
It is common knowledge that research and development activities benefit when companies during times of strong financial trading. It becomes a vicious circle, though, as poor financial figures inevitably mean cuts in R&D budgets.

PI, despite some despondent pundits and analysts dooming and glooming about the electronics market at the start of 2012, has done pretty well from a financial standpoint. Net revenues for the 4th quarter were $79.2 million, up 1% from the prior quarter and up 19% compared with the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full-year 2012, net revenues totaled $305.4 million, an increase of 2% compared with 2011.

Against that financial backdrop, the company developed and launched a number of products. Among them was a new version of its power-supply design software, PI Expert Suite 9.0, which now includes support for its LinkSwitch-PL, LinkSwitch-PH LED-driver ICs, and the TinySwitch-4 off-line switcher IC family. It features an enhanced schematics-manipulation tool that lets designers upload the resulting bill of materials from the auto-generated schematic layout to design-fulfillment distributors.

The company believes the PI Expert Suite 9.0 can boost a power-supply design team’s productivity by cutting the time to first prototype and by slashing the number of prototype iterations required to reach a finished product. By including support for solid-state-lighting products, LED designs can be optimized for CC, dimming, and harmonic emissions.

Furthermore, a heatsink calculation tool gives designers an estimation of the thermal design requirements for a new power supply, which may be used to guide layout and mechanical prototyping decisions. Enhanced PCB layout recommendations, based on the IC device and desired package, allow designers to cut trace-induced EMI and board area as well as maximise electrical noise immunity and surge tolerance.

About the Author

Paul Whytock Blog | European Editor

Paul Whytock is European Editor for Penton Media's Electronics Division. From his base in London, England, he covers press conferences and industry events throughout the EU for Penton publications and its Engineering TV and Radio services Qualified to HNC Full Technological Certificate standard, Whytock trained as an automotive design engineer with Ford Motor Company prior to entering technical journalism.

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