Monday, November 15, 2004

ONE FOR THE LITTLE GUYS: For Todd Austin, president of Ann Arbor-based Simplescalar L.L.C., what began as a potential patent lawsuit became a beneficial business relationship.

"In 2002, a huge Asian consumer-electronics company came out with a computer processor that looked like they had used our design information," Austin said.

The company admitted to using the software. It had come into the company through channels where the product was offered virtually free for researching. Apparently, a doctoral candidate working for the Asian company part-time had brought the software in.

While the lawyers negotiated a settlement on the illegal use, Austin said, "I took a clever step."
Several engineers of the company had contacted Austin by e-mail over the previous two years, saying they thought his software could match up with what they were doing, but they never followed up.

"I sent the names of their engineers to their legal counsel, suggesting they had a business need for my software," Austin said. "Within a couple of weeks, we were licensing to them. They've gone on to develop two other products not yet on the market with it, and I do support services and on-site training for them."

Simplescalar, with revenue of about $1.5 million a year, now is doing about $300,000 a year in business with the Asian company, Austin said. "I guess I'd say they've become a decent customer."

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