Why embedded circuits fabricants erase thename of their components in their integrated circuits?

Thread Starter

JuanjoGele

Joined Jul 15, 2016
7
hi guys!

I just wanna know it. I think it it because other people could copy their designs but, Is there another reason?

Regards.
 

hp1729

Joined Nov 23, 2015
2,304
hi guys!

I just wanna know it. I think it it because other people could copy their designs but, Is there another reason?

Regards.
I side with your view on protection. Patents and copyrights are only good if you can afford to go to court. Other op[inions are certainly valid, also.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
25,744
You've just spent $100k to develop a design that can do X using dollar-scale components. Would YOU not try to make it hard for someone to just look at your PCB and copy your design? If so, would that make you greedy?
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
24,920
You've just spent $100k to develop a design that can do X using dollar-scale components. Would YOU not try to make it hard for someone to just look at your PCB and copy your design? If so, would that make you greedy?
Nope.
Considering that copying a device or circuit carries little stigma in some (nameless) Asian countries with little enforcement of copyright or patent laws, trying to do everything possible to prevent copying seems very reasonable.
 

hp1729

Joined Nov 23, 2015
2,304
All that being said, even I (a non-engineer) have de-engineered circuits and made a schematic and parts list. Given a pin out of an IC I can often identify it.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
25,744
All that being said, even I (a non-engineer) have de-engineered circuits and made a schematic and parts list. Given a pin out of an IC I can often identify it.
What do you mean "given the pin out of an IC"? If all you have is a circuit board with ICs that have no meaningful markings on them, how do you get the pinouts of the ICs on the board?

You might be able to take a good guess about which pins are inputs and which pins are outputs and you can probably take a pretty good guess, in many cases, of which ICs are digital and which are analog. You can do better by probing the ICs in operation (or even better by stripping them off to be able to stroke them in whatever fashion you want) to determine some of the functional behavior and, from that, determine what specific ICs are used.

And, of course, anyone that really, really wants to figure out what you are using can simply decap the IC and, if they are really intent, they can mill the IC and map out the circuitry layer by layer even if it's a custom IC.

So any copy-protection steps you take are only effective against a certain subset of would-be copiers. It's always a matter of matching the lengths (and costs) you are willing to go to in order to defeat the threats you are most concerned about.
 

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,210
If all you have is a circuit board with ICs that have no meaningful markings on them, how do you get the pinouts of the ICs on the board?
I've done it. Small scale to be sure, but you can play, "What's the only thing that would fit here?" and arrive at schematics for lots of cheap devices using up to 5 square inches of board space. I think my best was a TENS machine with nearly a hundred parts. It contained a very interesting configuration of two transistors such that: If A first, then B can not have current flow and, if B first, then A never has current flow. (I hope I remembered that correctly, and I hope I put that circuit in one of my notebooks. Let's see...1982?)

If there's a microprocessor in there, it's a fools game to even try.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
25,744
I've done it. Small scale to be sure, but you can play, "What's the only thing that would fit here?" and arrive at schematics for lots of cheap devices using up to 5 square inches of board space. I think my best was a TENS machine with nearly a hundred parts. It contained a very interesting configuration of two transistors such that: If A first, then B can not have current flow and, if B first, then A never has current flow. (I hope I remembered that correctly, and I hope I put that circuit in one of my notebooks. Let's see...1982?)

If there's a microprocessor in there, it's a fools game to even try.
Interesting that you should mention the case of a microprocessor. I have some friends that are into reverse engineering and replicating old HP calculators and, if I remember correctly, they reverse engineered the entire functionality of one of th CPUs by monitoring the I/O pins and mapping it out. But then they have also been known to go to the patents and hand code the assembly language programs contained therein.
 

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,210
they reverse engineered the entire functionality of one of the CPUs by monitoring the I/O pins
Some people have a lot more time than I want to spend doing that!

I would elaborate on how pointless it seems to map out decades old technology that you can replace for a few dollars, but you already know that.
 

RichardO

Joined May 4, 2013
2,271
I remember hearing that Atari was having trouble with counterfeits of their designs. The thieves were not reverse engineering the design. They were copying Atari's PCB and then stuffing it with the same parts as on the Atari PCB.

Atari's solution was to mark a PROM with a TTL part number.
 
Simplest way to stop hardware piracy is to add a small 8 pin PIC microcontroller to the circuit.
Make it so the circuit wont work without it.
Then code protect it.
 
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