Jury RIMMs DRAM makers in Rambus case

Written by Tim Smalley

March 28, 2008 // 8:52 a.m.

Tags: #anti-competitive #ddr #dram #fraudulent #hynix #jedec #jury #makers #manufacturers #micron #nanya #ram #rambus #rimm #rule #sdram

Memory chip technology developer Rambus has earned a surprising victory in its long-running lawsuit against key DRAM manufacturers for patent infringement.

A San Francisco jury ruled on Wednesday that the company hadn't engaged in fraudulent or anti-competitive behaviour when it was a member of JEDEC in the mid-1990s, where it helped to create the set of standards for what became known as SDRAM.

This will no doubt be a blow for plaintiffs Hynix, Micron and Nanya, who claim that Rambus had deliberately hidden the fact it was seeking patents for a number of technologies that it worked with other board members to establish as industry standards.

The plaintiffs alleged that patenting several memory technologies which are integral parts of industry standards unfairly gave Rambus the right to royalties they believe are 'undeserved'. However, Rambus claimed that JEDEC's disclosure policy did not require members of the council to disclose any patents they held.

"This was an important one for us," said Rambus General Counsel Tom Lavelle in a phone interview with Reuters. "Their attempts to invalidate our patents and find us violative of fraud laws and monopoly laws of the United States have failed."

Micron said that this was one phase in a number of pending cases between Rambus and the DRAM manufacturers and that it planned to appeal the decision. "I think [the jurors] misapprehended what the standards-setting organisations are all about and the absolute need for good faith," added Jared Bobrow, an attorney for Micron.

Rambus stock rose by nearly 40 percent when the news broke – what this will do to the memory market is unclear at the moment, but it's becoming increasingly likely that DRAM manufacturers will have to pay royalties to Rambus in order to stay in business. These will no doubt be passed onto the consumer, as memory manufacturers are already struggling because the memory market is in free-fall at the moment.

Do you think the right side won this particular battle in the war? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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