Forums

Hardware Based IP Protection

Started by Ricky September 26, 2022
A customer wants me to redesign a board to eliminate the production bottlenecks.  They also want all IP so they can make the boards themselves if my company is unable to.  I'm fine with that, but I'd like to have some means of assurance they won't make boards without my royalty being respected.  

The board has an FPGA which contains the "magic", an analog path, and a digital path to the outside world.  The digital path needs a 3.3V/5V interface.  There are two opamps that serve as filters with gain.  There is a need for several (3-4) LDOs. 

I've found a couple of chips from Greenpaks that could help here.  One is a "Programmable Mixed-Signal Matrix" which could replace the opamps and provide a configurable gain using the programmable "rheostat".  Another has four LDOs which would be useful and *might* be able to serve as the level shifter.  

I'm waiting to hear back from someone from Renesas, who can discuss this with me, or a disti FAE.  There are a lot of questions about how to turn these into a custom part number to meet my needs. 

Anyone have experience with using these in production? 

-- 

Rick C.

- Get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging
- Tesla referral code - https://ts.la/richard11209
On 9/26/2022 1:09 PM, Ricky wrote:
> A customer wants me to redesign a board to eliminate the production > bottlenecks. They also want all IP so they can make the boards themselves > if my company is unable to. I'm fine with that, but I'd like to have some > means of assurance they won't make boards without my royalty being > respected. > > The board has an FPGA which contains the "magic", an analog path, and a > digital path to the outside world. The digital path needs a 3.3V/5V > interface. There are two opamps that serve as filters with gain. There is > a need for several (3-4) LDOs. > > I've found a couple of chips from Greenpaks that could help here. One is a > "Programmable Mixed-Signal Matrix" which could replace the opamps and > provide a configurable gain using the programmable "rheostat". Another has > four LDOs which would be useful and *might* be able to serve as the level > shifter. > > I'm waiting to hear back from someone from Renesas, who can discuss this > with me, or a disti FAE. There are a lot of questions about how to turn > these into a custom part number to meet my needs. > > Anyone have experience with using these in production?
If you must share your IP -- *all* of your IP -- then there's little you can really do. I've seen customers "steal" fully disclosed designs (industrial applications) without batting an eyelash -- pay for system #1 and reproduce it, exactly, multiple times thereafter (saving a few hundred kilobucks each time). [Of course, they're screwed if they ever want to make changes or improvements -- unless they want to go into the "equipment business"!] You can create a unique component that is essential to your design's operation and sell those for the price of the component plus royalty figure (to them or to yourself). But, as they WILL know what's *in* that component, you have to rely on the cost/effort of fabricating it ("second sourcing" it) to be high enough to discourage their doing so. In the past, we did this with full customs as the price of admission was pretty steep and the amount of expertise required made it impractical for folks who weren't dedicated to that sort of technology. If you're going to try to do the same with a "readier" technology, then expect the customer to hire out for someone to replace that effort for a fixed (relatively low, compared to a full custom design) one-time cost. [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the obvious goal was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" of a particular supplier] In a couple of cases, I've had to "share" the entire design with "partners". You can still hide critical details but it gets harder. E.g., I can publish a recipe for baked goods and fail to mention something that makes a notable difference in the outcome; it's absence wouldn't be obvious from inspecting the recipe nor would it's need likely be determined from *making* the recipe. Folks often look at designs with "school boy" eyes and don't see little details that can be exploited. Like wire has resistance, gates have finite switching times, software modules are placed in memory in certain relationships, etc. If you can leverage any of these in a design, folks will go crazy trying to figure out why their "copy" of your implementation doesn't perform the same as yours. [Of course, if they want to make changes/improvements, then the hurdles are higher as they now need to *understand* each of your design choices] To cover the possibility of "if my company can't", offer to put the IP in escrow against that possibility. It's how I answer the "what happens if you get hit by a bus" question. A smart customer should *want* you to continue to be the supplier (just as they would want me to continue to support a product) as you already know the "unwritten details" of making it happen. Taking over *for* you should be something they dread -- esp if it means losing your skillset on future product offerings. Ask yourself how YOU would tackle a job from that customer where the stated goal was "IC27 is no longer available; can you re-engineer the design to not need it?"
On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 1:51:29 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote:
> On 9/26/2022 1:09 PM, Ricky wrote: > > A customer wants me to redesign a board to eliminate the production > > bottlenecks. They also want all IP so they can make the boards themselves > > if my company is unable to. I'm fine with that, but I'd like to have some > > means of assurance they won't make boards without my royalty being > > respected. > > > > The board has an FPGA which contains the "magic", an analog path, and a > > digital path to the outside world. The digital path needs a 3.3V/5V > > interface. There are two opamps that serve as filters with gain. There is > > a need for several (3-4) LDOs. > > > > I've found a couple of chips from Greenpaks that could help here. One is a > > "Programmable Mixed-Signal Matrix" which could replace the opamps and > > provide a configurable gain using the programmable "rheostat". Another has > > four LDOs which would be useful and *might* be able to serve as the level > > shifter. > > > > I'm waiting to hear back from someone from Renesas, who can discuss this > > with me, or a disti FAE. There are a lot of questions about how to turn > > these into a custom part number to meet my needs. > > > > Anyone have experience with using these in production? > If you must share your IP -- *all* of your IP -- then there's little > you can really do. I've seen customers "steal" fully disclosed > designs (industrial applications) without batting an eyelash -- pay > for system #1 and reproduce it, exactly, multiple times thereafter > (saving a few hundred kilobucks each time).
Like I said, I'm fine with them making the boards. In fact, that's my ideal situation, they do all the work, and I get the royalty. I don't think they would "steal" the design, so much. I'm looking for a way to have accountability (in the fiduciary way), so I can verify they are paying for all the units they make, without needing to be intrusive into their operations.
> [Of course, they're screwed if they ever want to make changes or > improvements -- unless they want to go into the "equipment business"!]
??? They are in the equipment business. They would have designed this themselves, but they don't want to pay to reinvent the wheel when I can do it for essentially free to them. They also have a time frame and are already respinning their own boards.
> You can create a unique component that is essential to your design's > operation and sell those for the price of the component plus royalty > figure (to them or to yourself). But, as they WILL know what's *in* > that component, you have to rely on the cost/effort of fabricating > it ("second sourcing" it) to be high enough to discourage their > doing so.
They won't know what's in the part, if they don't ask. I will turn over to them various files as "IP". But I don't think they will bother with digging through the files until they need them. Will they fully understand what they are looking at? Probably not.
> In the past, we did this with full customs as the price of admission > was pretty steep and the amount of expertise required made it > impractical for folks who weren't dedicated to that sort of > technology. > > If you're going to try to do the same with a "readier" technology, > then expect the customer to hire out for someone to replace that > effort for a fixed (relatively low, compared to a full custom > design) one-time cost.
Not sure what you are talking about here.
> [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the > obvious goal was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" > of a particular supplier]
They can change some parts, but that won't relieve them of the financial aspects, so why bother?
> In a couple of cases, I've had to "share" the entire design with > "partners". You can still hide critical details but it gets > harder. E.g., I can publish a recipe for baked goods and fail > to mention something that makes a notable difference in the > outcome; it's absence wouldn't be obvious from inspecting the > recipe nor would it's need likely be determined from *making* > the recipe. > > Folks often look at designs with "school boy" eyes and don't > see little details that can be exploited. Like wire has > resistance, gates have finite switching times, software > modules are placed in memory in certain relationships, etc. > If you can leverage any of these in a design, folks will > go crazy trying to figure out why their "copy" of your > implementation doesn't perform the same as yours. > > [Of course, if they want to make changes/improvements, then > the hurdles are higher as they now need to *understand* each > of your design choices] > > To cover the possibility of "if my company can't", offer to put > the IP in escrow against that possibility. It's how I answer the > "what happens if you get hit by a bus" question.
That is useless to me. I'm not trying to get out of giving them the IP. I'm trying to assure I have accountability of the units they produce. I have no idea how this is typically handled in licensing agreements. No company wants to open their books wide. How does anyone verify all use of a license is being reported?
> A smart customer should *want* you to continue to be the supplier > (just as they would want me to continue to support a product) as > you already know the "unwritten details" of making it happen. > Taking over *for* you should be something they dread -- esp > if it means losing your skillset on future product offerings.
I'm not thinking they want to ice me out, but I don't want it to be easy for them. I want to know how many units they are building.
> Ask yourself how YOU would tackle a job from that customer > where the stated goal was "IC27 is no longer available; > can you re-engineer the design to not need it?"
-- Rick C. + Get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging + Tesla referral code - https://ts.la/richard11209
On 9/27/2022 12:10 PM, Ricky wrote:
> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 1:51:29 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: >> On 9/26/2022 1:09 PM, Ricky wrote:
>> If you must share your IP -- *all* of your IP -- then there's little you >> can really do. I've seen customers "steal" fully disclosed designs >> (industrial applications) without batting an eyelash -- pay for system #1 >> and reproduce it, exactly, multiple times thereafter (saving a few hundred >> kilobucks each time). > > Like I said, I'm fine with them making the boards. In fact, that's my ideal > situation, they do all the work, and I get the royalty. I don't think they > would "steal" the design, so much. I'm looking for a way to have > accountability (in the fiduciary way), so I can verify they are paying for > all the units they make, without needing to be intrusive into their > operations.
Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? Why not just sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think they're out to screw you? If you want to ensure 'N' is an accurate assessment of their "usage of your design" (royalty), then you need to be a gatekeeper for something that is related to N, in some way. When I was doing video games, we designed a custom BLTer. This added a lot of value to the product so made sense from THAT financial aspect. It did double duty at preventing counterfeiters from STEALING our game designs (a very common practice to see your game in a semi-generic cabinet with just enough of the software changed so that it announces itself as "SomeOther Game"). As it was possible that the BLTer could fail (unlikely) and need to be replaced, after the sale, we stocked them as spares -- priced at exactly the price of the entire game! (cuz a counterfeiter could always buy entire games if they wanted to acquire the BLTers) But, when you returned the "defective" BLTer, we issued a huge refund so that the replacement BLTer only cost you a "reasonable" amount. [I mention this as you will likewise have to deal with warranty failures] Other networked products would "phone home" to report their existence -- tunneling under common protocols (DNS being one of the easiest). But, this requires the device to need/want internet connectivity to function. Still others wouldn't accept updates unless they were legitimate products (vs. copies).
>> [Of course, they're screwed if they ever want to make changes or >> improvements -- unless they want to go into the "equipment business"!] > > ??? They are in the equipment business. They would have designed this > themselves, but they don't want to pay to reinvent the wheel when I can do > it for essentially free to them. They also have a time frame and are > already respinning their own boards.
Then that's a different market than those that I've addressed. Imagine a newspaper stealing your design for printing presses... now they have to be in the printing press business to support the printing press that they "copied" from your design!
>> You can create a unique component that is essential to your design's >> operation and sell those for the price of the component plus royalty >> figure (to them or to yourself). But, as they WILL know what's *in* that >> component, you have to rely on the cost/effort of fabricating it ("second >> sourcing" it) to be high enough to discourage their doing so. > > They won't know what's in the part, if they don't ask. I will turn over to > them various files as "IP". But I don't think they will bother with digging > through the files until they need them. Will they fully understand what > they are looking at? Probably not.
Yet, they're already "in the business" (but unable to understand your design)? Again, would they bother to clone your bare PCBs? Or, the choke used in your power supply? I.e., how much can they be trusted -- if not COMPLETELY?
>> In the past, we did this with full customs as the price of admission was >> pretty steep and the amount of expertise required made it impractical for >> folks who weren't dedicated to that sort of technology. >> >> If you're going to try to do the same with a "readier" technology, then >> expect the customer to hire out for someone to replace that effort for a >> fixed (relatively low, compared to a full custom design) one-time cost. > > Not sure what you are talking about here.
Doing a full custom in the late 70's was a high hurdle to meet. A counterfeiter could analyze the code and deduce what was being done *in* the chip. Could even deencapsulate it and look at the die. But, that's a lot of work. And, takes a lot of time. Games have short shelf lives so if you had to possibly repeat this exercise for each new game release and design a "chip emulator" (even if you didn't actually go to a foundry to design a drop-in replacement) for each, you'd keep missing the market window. [We used to have friendly "challenges" with our competitors to see how they would defeat a protection scheme. Note that we're not protecting the software -- you can read that just by plugging the EPROMs into a PROM programmed and dumping their contents. Rather, we were protecting the product... ensuring we knew exactly how many of them were made (because WE made them all!)] OTOH, if it was a PAL/GAL -- or other COTS solution -- that you just had to reverse engineer and burn copies, that's relatively easy -- in time and money. DataI/O - FutureNet used to lock their products with PALs that implemented small DFA. Their software would push data at the PAL, clock it and then read the PAL's outputs. If not what they expected, they knew the product was unlicensed. It takes about 30 minutes to reverse engineer such a "key" given the complexity of PALs of that era (no "buried state"). And, another 30 minutes to copy the software. For an hour of your time, you've got a few kilobucks of "licensed" software.
>> [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the obvious goal >> was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" of a particular >> supplier] > > They can change some parts, but that won't relieve them of the financial > aspects, so why bother?
It boils down to what their goal is and what you fear them doing. If you aren't afraid that they'll hire someone to "work around" your *hold* on them, then you can do damn near anything... sell them UL labels to slap on their product and count the number of labels you sell! If, OTOH, they decide they want to be free of their obligation to you, then they may be willing to spend monies to defeat your scheme (whatever it may be). I've had clients who didn't have access to the source code for their product(s). This gave the designer leverage over them for future work. When they got tired of being in that position, I'd get a call and the job of reverse engineering the code. "Oh, and while you're at it, can you make the following changes?" I've had clients who were locked into buying a key (significant) component from the designer as a means of ensuring he remained in the loop. "How can we come up with an alternative for that component (and cut him out of the loop)?" Again, if you're just wanting some low-cost, low-effort way of getting *a* number from them periodically, pick something that is really easy for you to supply (low risk of failures) and price it reasonably -- cost + royalty. So, the only incentive they have to come up with an alternative is to cheat you out of your royalty (which you don't consider to be a problem).
>> In a couple of cases, I've had to "share" the entire design with >> "partners". You can still hide critical details but it gets harder. E.g., >> I can publish a recipe for baked goods and fail to mention something that >> makes a notable difference in the outcome; it's absence wouldn't be >> obvious from inspecting the recipe nor would it's need likely be >> determined from *making* the recipe. >> >> Folks often look at designs with "school boy" eyes and don't see little >> details that can be exploited. Like wire has resistance, gates have finite >> switching times, software modules are placed in memory in certain >> relationships, etc. If you can leverage any of these in a design, folks >> will go crazy trying to figure out why their "copy" of your implementation >> doesn't perform the same as yours. >> >> [Of course, if they want to make changes/improvements, then the hurdles >> are higher as they now need to *understand* each of your design choices] >> >> To cover the possibility of "if my company can't", offer to put the IP in >> escrow against that possibility. It's how I answer the "what happens if >> you get hit by a bus" question. > > That is useless to me. I'm not trying to get out of giving them the IP. > I'm trying to assure I have accountability of the units they produce. I > have no idea how this is typically handled in licensing agreements. No > company wants to open their books wide. How does anyone verify all use of a > license is being reported?
Trust. You can periodically look at items coming off their production line and see if the S/N is 9999 but they've only claimed 234 units produced. If they want to keep on your good side, they shouldn't want to screw you. An early client once told me, "We WANT you to make money, Don. Otherwise, you won't want to work with us. And, we're going to make *more* money off of the work you do for us so why should we want to cheat you?"
>> A smart customer should *want* you to continue to be the supplier (just as >> they would want me to continue to support a product) as you already know >> the "unwritten details" of making it happen. Taking over *for* you should >> be something they dread -- esp if it means losing your skillset on future >> product offerings. > > I'm not thinking they want to ice me out, but I don't want it to be easy for > them. I want to know how many units they are building.
If you can find "something" that you can semi-uniquely supply THAT ADDS VALUE to the design, then supply that. E.g., preprogramming (and testing!) MCUs saves that effort for them (assuming you don't program in situ). Or, the devices you mentioned in your initial post -- *if* they are comparable in cost (DM+DL) *or* add some value that would be hard to add, otherwise. But, this works both ways. You are trying to place yourself in the critical path. So, make sure they won't later complain because *you* are the source of those hard-to-get-chips-in-the-pandemic on which their production relies! Else you can represent a genuine loss to their business!
>> Ask yourself how YOU would tackle a job from that customer where the >> stated goal was "IC27 is no longer available; can you re-engineer the >> design to not need it?" >
On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 4:16:25 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote:
> On 9/27/2022 12:10 PM, Ricky wrote: > > On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 1:51:29 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: > >> On 9/26/2022 1:09 PM, Ricky wrote: > > >> If you must share your IP -- *all* of your IP -- then there's little you > >> can really do. I've seen customers "steal" fully disclosed designs > >> (industrial applications) without batting an eyelash -- pay for system #1 > >> and reproduce it, exactly, multiple times thereafter (saving a few hundred > >> kilobucks each time). > > > > Like I said, I'm fine with them making the boards. In fact, that's my ideal > > situation, they do all the work, and I get the royalty. I don't think they > > would "steal" the design, so much. I'm looking for a way to have > > accountability (in the fiduciary way), so I can verify they are paying for > > all the units they make, without needing to be intrusive into their > > operations. > Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? > Why not just sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think > they're out to screw you?
Sorry, I don't understand what you are suggesting. Do you mean instead of selling them product? I think they prefer I sell them functioning boards. Trying to control things by selling them bare boards is probably the worse possible way to manage this. The pcb is probably the easiest part of the design to duplicate. If you mean when they want to take over production, I'm pretty sure they will simply refuse and built the boards from the Gerbers I sent when we agree to the deal.
> If you want to ensure 'N' is an accurate assessment of their > "usage of your design" (royalty), then you need to be a gatekeeper > for something that is related to N, in some way.
That's why I'm looking at designing in custom parts from places like Greenpak. I need to find out if the parts will *only* have my markings and not Greenpak markings. If they will sale these through distribution, so no one reports they are even Greenpak parts, this may work well. It's a custom part for my company, and that's all they need to know as long as the lead times are not a problem.
> When I was doing video games, we designed a custom BLTer. > This added a lot of value to the product so made sense > from THAT financial aspect. It did double duty at preventing > counterfeiters from STEALING our game designs (a very common > practice to see your game in a semi-generic cabinet with > just enough of the software changed so that it announces itself > as "SomeOther Game"). > > As it was possible that the BLTer could fail (unlikely) and need > to be replaced, after the sale, we stocked them as spares -- priced > at exactly the price of the entire game! (cuz a counterfeiter could > always buy entire games if they wanted to acquire the BLTers) > But, when you returned the "defective" BLTer, we issued a huge > refund so that the replacement BLTer only cost you a "reasonable" > amount. > > [I mention this as you will likewise have to deal with warranty failures]
Warranty failures are our responsibility. I'm not sure what you are saying about this. We don't have many warranty failures, nearly zero other than a connector problem where they returned 8 units once.
> Other networked products would "phone home" to report their > existence -- tunneling under common protocols (DNS being one > of the easiest). But, this requires the device to need/want > internet connectivity to function.
We don't have the phone home option. Our board has too little "smarts" to phone home and no connection to do so. Ironic, in that we are part of an IP network. Even if we could figure out how to hijack packets, the IP systems are mostly self contained and not connected to the real world.
> Still others wouldn't accept updates unless they were legitimate > products (vs. copies). > >> [Of course, they're screwed if they ever want to make changes or > >> improvements -- unless they want to go into the "equipment business"!] > > > > ??? They are in the equipment business. They would have designed this > > themselves, but they don't want to pay to reinvent the wheel when I can do > > it for essentially free to them. They also have a time frame and are > > already respinning their own boards. > Then that's a different market than those that I've addressed. > Imagine a newspaper stealing your design for printing presses... > now they have to be in the printing press business to support > the printing press that they "copied" from your design! > >> You can create a unique component that is essential to your design's > >> operation and sell those for the price of the component plus royalty > >> figure (to them or to yourself). But, as they WILL know what's *in* that > >> component, you have to rely on the cost/effort of fabricating it ("second > >> sourcing" it) to be high enough to discourage their doing so. > > > > They won't know what's in the part, if they don't ask. I will turn over to > > them various files as "IP". But I don't think they will bother with digging > > through the files until they need them. Will they fully understand what > > they are looking at? Probably not. > Yet, they're already "in the business" (but unable to understand > your design)?
I never said they *couldn't* understand it. I was told my my contact, that they talked to their own people about spinning their board to replace mine (just to make it clear, my current board can't be built anymore without a respin, due to component EOLs). No one knew much about what it needed to do, so they punted. Sure, they could figure it out. It's not *that* complex. But I put some many months into designing, debugging, and qualifying the board. Then I developed a fairly rigorous test procedure to assure they are working fully when they are shipped. Yeah, they could do it, but they realized it's better for them to let me do it and continue buying from me, unless I make that too painful. It's hard to get an idea of what "painful" means. The people who would do the design, are removed from the people I'm dealing with. That can work to my advantage, since the "build" group has already said to let me do it.
> Again, would they bother to clone your bare PCBs? Or, the > choke used in your power supply?
I'm trying to simply include a part, that will give me visibility into how many units they make/sell. I don't know how they would build units without "cloning" my board. I think you are off on some tangent.
> I.e., how much can they be trusted -- if not COMPLETELY?
Where did I say I didn't trust them? I'm trying to figure out accounting.
> >> In the past, we did this with full customs as the price of admission was > >> pretty steep and the amount of expertise required made it impractical for > >> folks who weren't dedicated to that sort of technology. > >> > >> If you're going to try to do the same with a "readier" technology, then > >> expect the customer to hire out for someone to replace that effort for a > >> fixed (relatively low, compared to a full custom design) one-time cost. > > > > Not sure what you are talking about here. > Doing a full custom in the late 70's was a high hurdle to meet. > A counterfeiter could analyze the code and deduce what was being > done *in* the chip. Could even deencapsulate it and look at the > die. > > But, that's a lot of work. And, takes a lot of time. Games have > short shelf lives so if you had to possibly repeat this exercise > for each new game release and design a "chip emulator" (even if > you didn't actually go to a foundry to design a drop-in replacement) > for each, you'd keep missing the market window. > > [We used to have friendly "challenges" with our competitors to > see how they would defeat a protection scheme. Note that we're > not protecting the software -- you can read that just by plugging the > EPROMs into a PROM programmed and dumping their contents. Rather, > we were protecting the product... ensuring we knew exactly how many > of them were made (because WE made them all!)] > > OTOH, if it was a PAL/GAL -- or other COTS solution -- that you just > had to reverse engineer and burn copies, that's relatively easy -- in > time and money. > > DataI/O - FutureNet used to lock their products with PALs that > implemented small DFA. Their software would push data at the PAL, > clock it and then read the PAL's outputs. If not what they > expected, they knew the product was unlicensed. > > It takes about 30 minutes to reverse engineer such a "key" > given the complexity of PALs of that era (no "buried state"). > And, another 30 minutes to copy the software. For an hour > of your time, you've got a few kilobucks of "licensed" > software.
Good thing I'm not using PALs. I thought PALs were a thing, for about 15 minutes in the early 80, or maybe late 70s. I hardly even saw them on the market.
> >> [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the obvious goal > >> was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" of a particular > >> supplier] > > > > They can change some parts, but that won't relieve them of the financial > > aspects, so why bother? > It boils down to what their goal is and what you fear them doing. > If you aren't afraid that they'll hire someone to "work around" > your *hold* on them, then you can do damn near anything... sell > them UL labels to slap on their product and count the number > of labels you sell!
You aren't really grasping the issue. There is no "hold", in a technical sense. I have a design that I will let them build if they can't get product from me. I need to negotiate what "can't get" means in a measurable way. Their CM has sent POs with a requested "on dock" date prior to the date of the PO! That's a high bar to clear! So this will need to be a negotiation. I had a round of negotiations previously and ended up with a thoroughly f*cked up agreement. The agreement we sign will have to require them to pay royalties on any product they sell that is substantially similar, i.e. a derivative product. "Substantially" will need to be well defined, but I used an opamp output circuit with a synthetic impedance. That is a key feature, since they needed to drive some higher voltages, close to the 12V rail, into a 50 ohm load. To get the 50 ohm output impedance and a wide output voltage range required this special circuit, or something very similar. I'm not sure they still need that, so maybe this is not such a great detail to rely on.
> If, OTOH, they decide they want to be free of their obligation > to you, then they may be willing to spend monies to defeat your scheme > (whatever it may be).
That's always possible. It can be hard to get around the contractual details however. If this does occur to them, it will be somewhere down the road. I think, in general, this is not a company that has any interest in screwing their suppliers.
> I've had clients who didn't have access to the source code for their > product(s). This gave the designer leverage over them for future > work. When they got tired of being in that position, I'd get a > call and the job of reverse engineering the code. "Oh, and while > you're at it, can you make the following changes?" > > I've had clients who were locked into buying a key (significant) component > from the designer as a means of ensuring he remained in the loop. > "How can we come up with an alternative for that component (and > cut him out of the loop)?"
Any protection scheme can be defeated. I'm looking for something that raises a higher bar than a handshake.
> Again, if you're just wanting some low-cost, low-effort way of > getting *a* number from them periodically, pick something that is > really easy for you to supply (low risk of failures) and price > it reasonably -- cost + royalty. So, the only incentive they have > to come up with an alternative is to cheat you out of your royalty > (which you don't consider to be a problem).
Perhaps I've not explained it well. That's what I've been talking about with the Greenpak device. I've identified two of them. If I can get them without any reference to Greenpak or Renesas, and with a custom part number, then sold through a distributor, I can at least know how many they are buying... perhaps. I think there would need to be a small royalty on the parts, just so I get an accounting of all sales quantities. This gives me the visibility into the production of this design.
> >> In a couple of cases, I've had to "share" the entire design with > >> "partners". You can still hide critical details but it gets harder. E.g., > >> I can publish a recipe for baked goods and fail to mention something that > >> makes a notable difference in the outcome; it's absence wouldn't be > >> obvious from inspecting the recipe nor would it's need likely be > >> determined from *making* the recipe. > >> > >> Folks often look at designs with "school boy" eyes and don't see little > >> details that can be exploited. Like wire has resistance, gates have finite > >> switching times, software modules are placed in memory in certain > >> relationships, etc. If you can leverage any of these in a design, folks > >> will go crazy trying to figure out why their "copy" of your implementation > >> doesn't perform the same as yours. > >> > >> [Of course, if they want to make changes/improvements, then the hurdles > >> are higher as they now need to *understand* each of your design choices] > >> > >> To cover the possibility of "if my company can't", offer to put the IP in > >> escrow against that possibility. It's how I answer the "what happens if > >> you get hit by a bus" question. > > > > That is useless to me. I'm not trying to get out of giving them the IP. > > I'm trying to assure I have accountability of the units they produce. I > > have no idea how this is typically handled in licensing agreements. No > > company wants to open their books wide. How does anyone verify all use of a > > license is being reported? > Trust. You can periodically look at items coming off their production line > and see if the S/N is 9999 but they've only claimed 234 units produced. > If they want to keep on your good side, they shouldn't want to screw you.
How do I get that visibility? They could be reporting to me they have sold SN 1234500 to 1234599, meanwhile, in another group, sold SN 1234600 through 1234699 without reporting it, because the left hand doesn't know the right hand exists! I was in a company who got fined by the government, because one group asked for a quote from TI on a DSP, which came back at a lower price than a quote on the same part for a production run. The government claimed defective pricing since every part of the company should know about the others!!! That's why companies have rules about how things are done. The larger the company, the more the rules.
> An early client once told me, "We WANT you to make money, Don. Otherwise, > you won't want to work with us. And, we're going to make *more* money off > of the work you do for us so why should we want to cheat you?"
You keep talking about cheating. I've never said I was worried about cheating. I don't think multibillion dollar companies "cheat" very much.
> >> A smart customer should *want* you to continue to be the supplier (just as > >> they would want me to continue to support a product) as you already know > >> the "unwritten details" of making it happen. Taking over *for* you should > >> be something they dread -- esp if it means losing your skillset on future > >> product offerings. > > > > I'm not thinking they want to ice me out, but I don't want it to be easy for > > them. I want to know how many units they are building. > If you can find "something" that you can semi-uniquely supply THAT > ADDS VALUE to the design, then supply that. E.g., preprogramming > (and testing!) MCUs saves that effort for them (assuming you > don't program in situ). Or, the devices you mentioned in your > initial post -- *if* they are comparable in cost (DM+DL) *or* > add some value that would be hard to add, otherwise. > > But, this works both ways. You are trying to place yourself in the > critical path. So, make sure they won't later complain because > *you* are the source of those hard-to-get-chips-in-the-pandemic > on which their production relies! Else you can represent a genuine > loss to their business! > >> Ask yourself how YOU would tackle a job from that customer where the > >> stated goal was "IC27 is no longer available; can you re-engineer the > >> design to not need it?"
-- Rick C. -- Get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging -- Tesla referral code - https://ts.la/richard11209
On 9/27/2022 5:33 PM, Ricky wrote:
> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 4:16:25 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote:
>> Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? Why not just >> sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think they're out to screw you? > > Sorry, I don't understand what you are suggesting. Do you mean instead of > selling them product? I think they prefer I sell them functioning boards. > Trying to control things by selling them bare boards is probably the worse > possible way to manage this. The pcb is probably the easiest part of the > design to duplicate.
You aren't worried that they will be making boards (presumably, including purchasing components to do so). You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a different board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their own". But, you *don't* trust them to accurately tell you how many of them they made/sold. Their accountants are crooks? Their manufacturing facilities don't know how many they shipped? If they are not incompetent, then clearly you have a trust issue. What is the minimum level of trust that you will be satisfied with? You claim it would be too easy to clone a bare board -- that suggests you don't trust them to buy them from you, exclusively. You claim you don't think they would bother to figure out what's inside these "house partnumbers" that you are buying COTS and "customizing" -- despite having all of the information they need to do that (or hire someone else to do that for them). Clearly, there is something between these two approaches that would be a high enough hurdle for them to assuage your "concerns" as to the accuracy of their reporting. Only *you* can determine what that level would be.
>>> They won't know what's in the part, if they don't ask. I will turn over >>> to them various files as "IP". But I don't think they will bother with >>> digging through the files until they need them. Will they fully >>> understand what they are looking at? Probably not. >> Yet, they're already "in the business" (but unable to understand your >> design)? > > I never said they *couldn't* understand it. I was told my my contact, that > they talked to their own people about spinning their board to replace mine > (just to make it clear, my current board can't be built anymore without a > respin, due to component EOLs). No one knew much about what it needed to > do, so they punted. Sure, they could figure it out. It's not *that* > complex. But I put some many months into designing, debugging, and > qualifying the board. Then I developed a fairly rigorous test procedure to > assure they are working fully when they are shipped. > > Yeah, they could do it, but they realized it's better for them to let me do > it and continue buying from me, unless I make that too painful. It's hard > to get an idea of what "painful" means.
Exactly. Doubly so for someone reading a USENET post.
> The people who would do the design, > are removed from the people I'm dealing with. That can work to my > advantage, since the "build" group has already said to let me do it. > >> Again, would they bother to clone your bare PCBs? Or, the choke used in >> your power supply? > > I'm trying to simply include a part, that will give me visibility into how > many units they make/sell. I don't know how they would build units without > "cloning" my board. I think you are off on some tangent.
If you opt to provide BARE PCBs to them (and COUNT the number of boards that you thus ship as a means of tracking their production), would you worry that they might clone the (bare) boards to avoid paying you? If you are selling the bare boards for the cost of the board plus your royalty, then the only incentive they would have to clone them would be to cheat you -- there's no *money* to be saved as you are selling the *board* at cost! (even if they could get a better price for the board by combining it with other orders, their savings wouldn't be "big numbers")
>> I.e., how much can they be trusted -- if not COMPLETELY? > > Where did I say I didn't trust them? I'm trying to figure out accounting.
OK. So, you DO trust them. So, you pick up the phone on the first of each month and call their accounting department and ask, "How many units did you sell/make last month?" You *KNOW* he will be honest with you. And, he must know what his business is selling else they'd never survive an audit. So, just accept the figure he provides, thank him and write up an invoice.
>> It takes about 30 minutes to reverse engineer such a "key" given the >> complexity of PALs of that era (no "buried state"). And, another 30 >> minutes to copy the software. For an hour of your time, you've got a few >> kilobucks of "licensed" software. > > Good thing I'm not using PALs. I thought PALs were a thing, for about 15 > minutes in the early 80, or maybe late 70s. I hardly even saw them on the > market.
Do you think the devices you are using are magically more difficult to reverse engineer? [Have you ever tried to reverse engineer a product/component? You would be surprised at how easy it is to get to the 90% point!]
>>>> [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the obvious >>>> goal was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" of a >>>> particular supplier] >>> >>> They can change some parts, but that won't relieve them of the >>> financial aspects, so why bother? >> It boils down to what their goal is and what you fear them doing. If you >> aren't afraid that they'll hire someone to "work around" your *hold* on >> them, then you can do damn near anything... sell them UL labels to slap on >> their product and count the number of labels you sell! > > You aren't really grasping the issue. There is no "hold", in a technical > sense. I have a design that I will let them build if they can't get product > from me. I need to negotiate what "can't get" means in a measurable way. > Their CM has sent POs with a requested "on dock" date prior to the date of > the PO! That's a high bar to clear! So this will need to be a negotiation. > I had a round of negotiations previously and ended up with a thoroughly > f*cked up agreement. > > The agreement we sign will have to require them to pay royalties on any > product they sell that is substantially similar, i.e. a derivative product.
But, we already know that you trust them. So, they will dutifully tell you of any product that they feel is substantially similar. Their lawyer will be very precise (based on your contract) in quantifying what that means -- to them. He'll also want to make sure they don't misreport the numbers and expose them to a lawsuit.
>> Again, if you're just wanting some low-cost, low-effort way of getting *a* >> number from them periodically, pick something that is really easy for you >> to supply (low risk of failures) and price it reasonably -- cost + >> royalty. So, the only incentive they have to come up with an alternative >> is to cheat you out of your royalty (which you don't consider to be a >> problem). > > Perhaps I've not explained it well. That's what I've been talking about > with the Greenpak device. I've identified two of them. If I can get them > without any reference to Greenpak or Renesas, and with a custom part number, > then sold through a distributor, I can at least know how many they are > buying... perhaps. I think there would need to be a small royalty on the > parts, just so I get an accounting of all sales quantities. This gives me > the visibility into the production of this design.
And you're hoping their engineers aren't smart enough to notice what you are using. Or, if they do, that they are too lazy to take steps to buy the same part you are buying and customize them in-house. Or, that they wouldn't consider something as "unethical" as that!? (but shooting bare boards doesn't insult their sensibilities!)
>> An early client once told me, "We WANT you to make money, Don. Otherwise, >> you won't want to work with us. And, we're going to make *more* money off >> of the work you do for us so why should we want to cheat you?" > > You keep talking about cheating. I've never said I was worried about > cheating.
So, you're worried about incompetence? That a multibillion dollar company doesn't have mechanisms in place to keep track of what they've sold?
> I don't think multibillion dollar companies "cheat" very much.
I know (firsthand) of a $10B that did exactly that! Foolish decision, on their part, as it forced them into a business that they didn't want to be in (because word gets around as to how they "operated" which makes others cautious about selling them products!) Figure out what you think they would be willing to do ("morally") to deprive you of an accurate count -- intentionally or unintentionally. Then, target your solution to that level of "suspicion" (if you object to the notion of "mistrust"). If you trust them, then selling bare boards -- or UL labels -- seems an ideal solution. Very little investment on your part. And, they *can't* make a device without the bare board (or UL label). Just make sure RickCo is listed as the preferred vendor on the BoM with no known alternates (you KNOW they wouldn't intentionally try to cut you out of the loop because you TRUST them).
On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 11:29:16 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote:
> On 9/27/2022 5:33 PM, Ricky wrote: > > On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 4:16:25 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: > > >> Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? Why not just > >> sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think they're out to screw you? > > > > Sorry, I don't understand what you are suggesting. Do you mean instead of > > selling them product? I think they prefer I sell them functioning boards. > > Trying to control things by selling them bare boards is probably the worse > > possible way to manage this. The pcb is probably the easiest part of the > > design to duplicate. > You aren't worried that they will be making boards (presumably, including > purchasing components to do so). > > You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a different > board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their own".
Sometimes I have trouble making myself clear. No, I'm not worried they will out and out steal my design, such as rolling it into the motherboard, my board plugs into. Nope. I have all confidence if they wanted to do that, they would simply do it and not need to worry with figuring out how my design works. I have complete confidence they would see stealing my design as the complex, risky and expensive way of doing it. How do I know? I've been told they already looked at that option and rejected it.
> But, you *don't* trust them to accurately tell you how many of them they > made/sold. Their accountants are crooks? Their manufacturing facilities > don't know how many they shipped? If they are not incompetent, then > clearly you have a trust issue.
I really don't know what to make of you. You seem like a fairly intelligent guy, but you don't seem to know much about large companies. I've been dealing with this outfit for 14 years now and I've seen so many examples of people only seeing their portion of the elephant. They have managed to raise the price of my board, not once, but twice! Not me, but THEY raised the price. I'm not going to correct them for sure. Even at the management level, they only see, what they can see from their cubical. The highest managers simply never look down, so they don't even know I exist!
> What is the minimum level of trust that you will be satisfied with?
That would be an 11.
> You claim it would be too easy to clone a bare board -- that suggests > you don't trust them to buy them from you, exclusively.
That's a strange thought process. I don't follow at all, and I don't think I care about an explanation.
> You claim you don't think they would bother to figure out what's inside > these "house partnumbers" that you are buying COTS and "customizing" -- > despite having all of the information they need to do that (or hire > someone else to do that for them).
I never said any such thing. You are reading what you want to read. Try reading what I actually write.
> Clearly, there is something between these two approaches that > would be a high enough hurdle for them to assuage your "concerns" > as to the accuracy of their reporting. Only *you* can determine > what that level would be.
So? Do you somehow think I am asking you to make my business decisions?
> >>> They won't know what's in the part, if they don't ask. I will turn over > >>> to them various files as "IP". But I don't think they will bother with > >>> digging through the files until they need them. Will they fully > >>> understand what they are looking at? Probably not. > >> Yet, they're already "in the business" (but unable to understand your > >> design)? > > > > I never said they *couldn't* understand it. I was told my my contact, that > > they talked to their own people about spinning their board to replace mine > > (just to make it clear, my current board can't be built anymore without a > > respin, due to component EOLs). No one knew much about what it needed to > > do, so they punted. Sure, they could figure it out. It's not *that* > > complex. But I put some many months into designing, debugging, and > > qualifying the board. Then I developed a fairly rigorous test procedure to > > assure they are working fully when they are shipped. > > > > Yeah, they could do it, but they realized it's better for them to let me do > > it and continue buying from me, unless I make that too painful. It's hard > > to get an idea of what "painful" means. > Exactly. Doubly so for someone reading a USENET post.
Yeah, I'm sure.
> > The people who would do the design, > > are removed from the people I'm dealing with. That can work to my > > advantage, since the "build" group has already said to let me do it. > > > >> Again, would they bother to clone your bare PCBs? Or, the choke used in > >> your power supply? > > > > I'm trying to simply include a part, that will give me visibility into how > > many units they make/sell. I don't know how they would build units without > > "cloning" my board. I think you are off on some tangent. > If you opt to provide BARE PCBs to them (and COUNT the number of boards > that you thus ship as a means of tracking their production), would you worry > that they might clone the (bare) boards to avoid paying you?
I really must be terrible at explaining things. In the first post I said, "They also want all IP so they can make the boards themselves if my company is unable to." If you failed to read and understand that, you will not understand that the customer does not want to buy PCBs from me. They want to have the option, if I fail to deliver in a timely manner, of building the boards without me. They don't say they want to buy PCBs from me. They would want to build the boards themselves, which would mean they want to buy *all* the parts and have me out of the schedule. Is that clear?
> If you are > selling the bare boards for the cost of the board plus your royalty, > then the only incentive they would have to clone them would be to cheat > you -- there's no *money* to be saved as you are selling the *board* > at cost! (even if they could get a better price for the board by > combining it with other orders, their savings wouldn't be "big numbers")
When ifs and ands are pots and pans, there'll be no need for tinkers. What you write here, makes no sense. Perhaps you forgot to type a sentence or two?
> >> I.e., how much can they be trusted -- if not COMPLETELY? > > > > Where did I say I didn't trust them? I'm trying to figure out accounting. > OK. So, you DO trust them. > > So, you pick up the phone on the first of each month and call their > accounting department and ask, "How many units did you sell/make > last month?" You *KNOW* he will be honest with you. And, he > must know what his business is selling else they'd never survive > an audit. So, just accept the figure he provides, thank him and > write up an invoice.
Trust, but verify. I've seen these guys make so many mistakes. Only an idiot would suggest I need to do nothing to double check on their use of my design.
> >> It takes about 30 minutes to reverse engineer such a "key" given the > >> complexity of PALs of that era (no "buried state"). And, another 30 > >> minutes to copy the software. For an hour of your time, you've got a few > >> kilobucks of "licensed" software. > > > > Good thing I'm not using PALs. I thought PALs were a thing, for about 15 > > minutes in the early 80, or maybe late 70s. I hardly even saw them on the > > market. > Do you think the devices you are using are magically more difficult to > reverse engineer?
Why would I compare this to that??? You seem to have gone off the deep end here. Strawman arguments.
> [Have you ever tried to reverse engineer a product/component? You would > be surprised at how easy it is to get to the 90% point!] > >>>> [I've had more than a few contracts over the years where the obvious > >>>> goal was for the client to free themselves from the "grasp" of a > >>>> particular supplier] > >>> > >>> They can change some parts, but that won't relieve them of the > >>> financial aspects, so why bother? > >> It boils down to what their goal is and what you fear them doing. If you > >> aren't afraid that they'll hire someone to "work around" your *hold* on > >> them, then you can do damn near anything... sell them UL labels to slap on > >> their product and count the number of labels you sell! > > > > You aren't really grasping the issue. There is no "hold", in a technical > > sense. I have a design that I will let them build if they can't get product > > from me. I need to negotiate what "can't get" means in a measurable way. > > Their CM has sent POs with a requested "on dock" date prior to the date of > > the PO! That's a high bar to clear! So this will need to be a negotiation. > > I had a round of negotiations previously and ended up with a thoroughly > > f*cked up agreement. > > > > The agreement we sign will have to require them to pay royalties on any > > product they sell that is substantially similar, i.e. a derivative product. > But, we already know that you trust them. So, they will dutifully > tell you of any product that they feel is substantially similar. > Their lawyer will be very precise (based on your contract) in > quantifying what that means -- to them. He'll also want to make sure they > don't misreport the numbers and expose them to a lawsuit.
Again, you fail to understand the difference in trusting a company, and expecting them to not make mistakes.
> >> Again, if you're just wanting some low-cost, low-effort way of getting *a* > >> number from them periodically, pick something that is really easy for you > >> to supply (low risk of failures) and price it reasonably -- cost + > >> royalty. So, the only incentive they have to come up with an alternative > >> is to cheat you out of your royalty (which you don't consider to be a > >> problem). > > > > Perhaps I've not explained it well. That's what I've been talking about > > with the Greenpak device. I've identified two of them. If I can get them > > without any reference to Greenpak or Renesas, and with a custom part number, > > then sold through a distributor, I can at least know how many they are > > buying... perhaps. I think there would need to be a small royalty on the > > parts, just so I get an accounting of all sales quantities. This gives me > > the visibility into the production of this design. > And you're hoping their engineers aren't smart enough to notice what > you are using. Or, if they do, that they are too lazy to take steps > to buy the same part you are buying and customize them in-house.
What makes you think they would even try to understand what I designed. If they are taking over production, they will be building the units, not worrying with how they work. One thing I've learned, is that I am good at test sometimes, because the problem is such that an intimate knowledge is a big benefit. Other times, it just gets in the way. Production folks don't try too hard to figure it all out. They just find the repetitive production problems and try to get the failure rates low enough, that they can toss out units that don't pass test. I got to see that first hand with my current CM. Their senior guy can fix anything, once he's worked with it a bit.
> Or, that they wouldn't consider something as "unethical" as that!? > (but shooting bare boards doesn't insult their sensibilities!) > >> An early client once told me, "We WANT you to make money, Don. Otherwise, > >> you won't want to work with us. And, we're going to make *more* money off > >> of the work you do for us so why should we want to cheat you?" > > > > You keep talking about cheating. I've never said I was worried about > > cheating. > So, you're worried about incompetence? That a multibillion dollar > company doesn't have mechanisms in place to keep track of what they've > sold?
Yeah, if they can't figure out that they paid X a year ago and ordered a few units with a mod at a higher price, then pay the higher price when they try to reorder the basic board... Their system integrator didn't want me to charge them the 2% late payment fee, so he said raise the price by 2% and give them 60 day terms, so they can pay past the 30 days and their customer will pay the 2%.
> > I don't think multibillion dollar companies "cheat" very much. > I know (firsthand) of a $10B that did exactly that! Foolish decision, > on their part, as it forced them into a business that they didn't want > to be in (because word gets around as to how they "operated" which > makes others cautious about selling them products!) > > Figure out what you think they would be willing to do ("morally") > to deprive you of an accurate count -- intentionally or unintentionally. > Then, target your solution to that level of "suspicion" (if you object > to the notion of "mistrust"). > > If you trust them, then selling bare boards -- or UL labels -- seems > an ideal solution. Very little investment on your part. And, they > *can't* make a device without the bare board (or UL label). Just > make sure RickCo is listed as the preferred vendor on the BoM with no > known alternates (you KNOW they wouldn't intentionally try to cut you > out of the loop because you TRUST them).
There are no UL labels and they would have no reason to buy bare boards from me. But thank you for the conversation, even if it had little to do with my original question. -- Rick C. -+ Get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging -+ Tesla referral code - https://ts.la/richard11209
On 9/27/2022 9:23 PM, Ricky wrote:
> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 11:29:16 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: >> On 9/27/2022 5:33 PM, Ricky wrote: >>> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 4:16:25 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: >> >>>> Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? Why not >>>> just sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think they're out to >>>> screw you? >>> >>> Sorry, I don't understand what you are suggesting. Do you mean instead >>> of selling them product? I think they prefer I sell them functioning >>> boards. Trying to control things by selling them bare boards is probably >>> the worse possible way to manage this. The pcb is probably the easiest >>> part of the design to duplicate. >> You aren't worried that they will be making boards (presumably, including >> purchasing components to do so). >> >> You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a >> different board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their >> own". > > Sometimes I have trouble making myself clear. No, I'm not worried they will > out and out steal my design, such as rolling it into the motherboard, my > board plugs into. Nope. I have all confidence if they wanted to do that, > they would simply do it and not need to worry with figuring out how my
And didn't I just say that in the sentence above? Here, I'll repeat it in case you missed it: "You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a different board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their own". I am spelling out what *I* have taken from your comments. I have no idea if you are right or wrong -- nor do I care. I am simply restating what I think you have claimed. And, using that to explain why my suggestion "fits" with those assumptions. As below:
>> But, you *don't* trust them to accurately tell you how many of them they >> made/sold. Their accountants are crooks? Their manufacturing facilities >> don't know how many they shipped? If they are not incompetent, then >> clearly you have a trust issue. > > I really don't know what to make of you. You seem like a fairly intelligent > guy, but you don't seem to know much about large companies. I've been
I've worked for firms with 4 to 90,000 employees -- but never more than 1,500 at a single facility. I'm amused that you seemed to have found such a dysfunctional one to partner with as most have seemed competent -- at least when it comes to their ACCOUNTING.
> dealing with this outfit for 14 years now and I've seen so many examples of > people only seeing their portion of the elephant. They have managed to > raise the price of my board, not once, but twice! Not me, but THEY raised > the price. I'm not going to correct them for sure. Even at the management > level, they only see, what they can see from their cubical. The highest > managers simply never look down, so they don't even know I exist! > >> What is the minimum level of trust that you will be satisfied with? > > That would be an 11.
So, you *don't* trust them. One minute you do, the next you don't.
>> You claim it would be too easy to clone a bare board -- that suggests you >> don't trust them to buy them from you, exclusively. > > That's a strange thought process. I don't follow at all, and I don't think > I care about an explanation.
Let's make this real simple. You "don't have faith in their ability to accurately pay you what you are due". Call that mistrust, incompetence, paranoia, <whatever>. I don't care WHAT you call it. Based on that, you want some way to reassure YOURSELF (they don't seem to be the ones complaining about "accounting", here) that you are getting what you are due. The only way you can be assured an accurate count is if they have to include something that YOU control (and can count!) in each device produced. But, you don't want to do too much work -- e.g., you don't want to have to produce the *product*! I advocated supplying something ESSENTIAL to the product (something that they can't decide they can omit) like the *bare* PCB. I reason this to be easy to do *correctly*. Take very little effort on your part (you just call the board house and have them run another lot). Relatively low investment (you could likely afford to produce large quantities and just "schedule delivery" at whatever rate they choose). But, you're afraid they could just make their own bare boards and distort *your* count. Not because they are trying to CHEAT you... just because they're incompetent (?) -- or, maybe TOO competent?? If you *trust* them (not to intentionally try to "cheat" you or to be bad at counting), then there would be no reason for them to find an alternate supply of bare boards. *You* are the sole vendor for that part in the BoM. INSTEAD, you think you need to sole-source a higher-tech component in the hope that they can't/won't *discover* it's just an XYZ2000 purchased from ABCCo. This seems inconsistent. Answer (to yourself) what your response would be if the customer "discovered" that you were just using rebranded XYZ2000's in your design -- esp if you had included any markup beyond the price they (with their MUCH greater buying power!) could obtain the same parts. Would you be just as fearful that they might source their own parts as you suspect they would the bare PCB's I'd suggested? Browse the FCC database and notice how many folks have sanded part numbers off of the prototypes submitted. Do you really think no one knows (or can find out) what those parts are? Especially if given schematics for the boards? You seem to be talking yourself into a conclusion that you want instead of actually being interested in what others have done. Go for it! You may get lucky! At least you'll know who to blame... But *do* expect someone to sort out what you've done; and, wonder what they'll do with that knowledge! Will they think less of you (as a supplier? as a person?) for your deception? Or, will they (someone) take it as a challenge to show how they can make "your" chip from a COTS device and a bit of (automated) labor?
On Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 3:28:57 AM UTC-4, Don Y wrote:
> On 9/27/2022 9:23 PM, Ricky wrote: > > On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 11:29:16 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: > >> On 9/27/2022 5:33 PM, Ricky wrote: > >>> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 4:16:25 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: > >> > >>>> Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? Why not > >>>> just sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think they're out to > >>>> screw you? > >>> > >>> Sorry, I don't understand what you are suggesting. Do you mean instead > >>> of selling them product? I think they prefer I sell them functioning > >>> boards. Trying to control things by selling them bare boards is probably > >>> the worse possible way to manage this. The pcb is probably the easiest > >>> part of the design to duplicate. > >> You aren't worried that they will be making boards (presumably, including > >> purchasing components to do so). > >> > >> You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a > >> different board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their > >> own". > > > > Sometimes I have trouble making myself clear. No, I'm not worried they will > > out and out steal my design, such as rolling it into the motherboard, my > > board plugs into. Nope. I have all confidence if they wanted to do that, > > they would simply do it and not need to worry with figuring out how my > And didn't I just say that in the sentence above? Here, I'll repeat it > in case you missed it: > "You aren't worried that they will "steal" your design -- layout a > different board, make some component changes, etc. and "call it their > own". > I am spelling out what *I* have taken from your comments. I have no idea if > you are right or wrong -- nor do I care. I am simply restating what I > think you have claimed. > > And, using that to explain why my suggestion "fits" with those assumptions. > As below: > >> But, you *don't* trust them to accurately tell you how many of them they > >> made/sold. Their accountants are crooks? Their manufacturing facilities > >> don't know how many they shipped? If they are not incompetent, then > >> clearly you have a trust issue. > > > > I really don't know what to make of you. You seem like a fairly intelligent > > guy, but you don't seem to know much about large companies. I've been > I've worked for firms with 4 to 90,000 employees -- but never more than > 1,500 at a single facility. I'm amused that you seemed to have found such > a dysfunctional one to partner with as most have seemed competent -- at > least when it comes to their ACCOUNTING. > > dealing with this outfit for 14 years now and I've seen so many examples of > > people only seeing their portion of the elephant. They have managed to > > raise the price of my board, not once, but twice! Not me, but THEY raised > > the price. I'm not going to correct them for sure. Even at the management > > level, they only see, what they can see from their cubical. The highest > > managers simply never look down, so they don't even know I exist! > > > >> What is the minimum level of trust that you will be satisfied with? > > > > That would be an 11. > So, you *don't* trust them. One minute you do, the next you don't. > >> You claim it would be too easy to clone a bare board -- that suggests you > >> don't trust them to buy them from you, exclusively. > > > > That's a strange thought process. I don't follow at all, and I don't think > > I care about an explanation. > Let's make this real simple. > > You "don't have faith in their ability to accurately pay you what you are due". > Call that mistrust, incompetence, paranoia, <whatever>. I don't care WHAT you > call it. > > Based on that, you want some way to reassure YOURSELF (they don't seem to be > the ones complaining about "accounting", here) that you are getting what > you are due. > > The only way you can be assured an accurate count is if they have to include > something that YOU control (and can count!) in each device produced. > > But, you don't want to do too much work -- e.g., you don't want to have to > produce the *product*! > > I advocated supplying something ESSENTIAL to the product (something that > they can't decide they can omit) like the *bare* PCB. I reason this to be > easy to do *correctly*. Take very little effort on your part (you > just call the board house and have them run another lot). Relatively > low investment (you could likely afford to produce large quantities and > just "schedule delivery" at whatever rate they choose). > > But, you're afraid they could just make their own bare boards and distort > *your* count. Not because they are trying to CHEAT you... just because > they're incompetent (?) -- or, maybe TOO competent?? > > If you *trust* them (not to intentionally try to "cheat" you or to > be bad at counting), then there would be no reason for them to find > an alternate supply of bare boards. *You* are the sole vendor for > that part in the BoM. > > INSTEAD, you think you need to sole-source a higher-tech component > in the hope that they can't/won't *discover* it's just an XYZ2000 > purchased from ABCCo. > > This seems inconsistent. Answer (to yourself) what your response would > be if the customer "discovered" that you were just using rebranded > XYZ2000's in your design -- esp if you had included any markup beyond > the price they (with their MUCH greater buying power!) could obtain the > same parts. Would you be just as fearful that they might source their > own parts as you suspect they would the bare PCB's I'd suggested? > > Browse the FCC database and notice how many folks have sanded part numbers > off of the prototypes submitted. Do you really think no one knows (or > can find out) what those parts are? Especially if given schematics for > the boards? > > You seem to be talking yourself into a conclusion that you want instead of > actually being interested in what others have done. > > Go for it! You may get lucky! At least you'll know who to blame... > > But *do* expect someone to sort out what you've done; and, wonder > what they'll do with that knowledge! Will they think less of you > (as a supplier? as a person?) for your deception? Or, will they > (someone) take it as a challenge to show how they can make "your" > chip from a COTS device and a bit of (automated) labor?
I'm sorry, I do appreciate having someone to bounce ideas off, but you seem to have gone out on some tangent that I don't get. "But, you don't want to do too much work -- e.g., you don't want to have to produce the *product*!" I have no idea where you are getting THIS! I believe I have said explicitly (if I haven't, I'm saying it now), I much prefer to manufacture the boards and sell them. I believe this will get me the most profit. I also believe I can set up manufacturing so that I will not need to be involved in any significant way. What I do right now, is to receive a PO from a customer, get a quote from my CM, relay the schedule to my customer and accept the order. My CM then makes the products, and drop ships to my customer. I have to prepare the paperwork for the shipment and invoice the customer. The current order had huge complications because one part is pure unobtainium now, because the factory burned down. When I got the order last year, we could still buy them at high prices. Eventually, the prices became absurd and the last reel was tarnished to the point we rejected them. So no more of the old boards, ever. The new design will be essentially the same with a different FPGA and the unobtainium part. A couple parts that are no longer required will be deleted. Other parts may be replaced with easier to find alternatives and/or second sources. I did a bunch of that on the original board, which is what let me make it for 14 years. The new board will have a new test fixture based on the customer's product itself. In fact, if they wanted, we could combine testing of their mother board with our daughter cards and provide them with complete units, saving them the work of integration. There will be no shortage of work to get these units in production. But that's where the work ends for me. After that, I only need to push paper. I can even remove myself from that, but getting a royalty from my CM and letting them take the orders and handling all the paperwork themselves. I'm sorry that I can't make myself clear to you. I think we've had this problem before. You do have a very active imagination, but once it turns to a thought, it is hard to put on the right path again. -- Rick C. +- Get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging +- Tesla referral code - https://ts.la/richard11209
On 27/09/2022 21:16, Don Y wrote:
> On 9/27/2022 12:10 PM, Ricky wrote: >> On Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 1:51:29 PM UTC-4, Don Y wrote: >>> On 9/26/2022 1:09 PM, Ricky wrote: > >>> If you must share your IP -- *all* of your IP -- then there's little you >>> can really do. I've seen customers "steal" fully disclosed designs >>> (industrial applications) without batting an eyelash -- pay for >>> system #1 >>> and reproduce it, exactly, multiple times thereafter (saving a few >>> hundred >>> kilobucks each time). >> >> Like I said, I'm fine with them making the boards.&nbsp; In fact, that's my >> ideal >> situation, they do all the work, and I get the royalty.&nbsp; I don't think >> they >> would "steal" the design, so much.&nbsp; I'm looking for a way to have >> accountability (in the fiduciary way), so I can verify they are paying >> for >> all the units they make, without needing to be intrusive into their >> operations. > > Yet you don't trust them to tell you "we made N of these"? > Why not just sell them the bare boards -- if you don't think > they're out to screw you? > > If you want to ensure 'N' is an accurate assessment of their > "usage of your design" (royalty), then you need to be a gatekeeper > for something that is related to N, in some way.
One of the simple ways is a single unreadable programmable component that you retain control of and supply one per unit made. Once you share your secrets with a third party they can clone the thing as they wish. The other is require an activation code that only you can supply for each unit. I have often done that for bespoke software. How sophisticated it needs to be depends on the size of the market and the level of attack you anticipate being levelled against it. It seems that someone has cracked the MS Office keys. Even bespoke chips offer only limited protection against those with very deep pockets. Cameca ion probes can be used to read back a chip mask set layer by layer if you are determined and have deep enough pockets. I used to know a firm in Silicon valley that specialised in it. We supplied MS kit to them and sometimes shared software components.
> When I was doing video games, we designed a custom BLTer. > This added a lot of value to the product so made sense > from THAT financial aspect.&nbsp; It did double duty at preventing > counterfeiters from STEALING our game designs (a very common > practice to see your game in a semi-generic cabinet with > just enough of the software changed so that it announces itself > as "SomeOther Game").
The other bespoke trick is to include code that exploits a known defect or quirk in the target hardware platform so that any attempt to change it will result in performance problems or non-functionality. I recall one based on the timing difference of TEST vs AND on x86 and another based on a page zero exploit on the 6502. Deliberately designing in a race condition vulnerability for any cloners to fail on. One of them was entirely accidental but proved incredibly effective! -- Regards, Martin Brown