Rambus and Micron face off in court

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Rambus and Micron face off in court

Rambus has confronted Micron Technology in court, starting the latest chapter in a string of legal battles Rambus has waged over computer memory patents.

The two companies appeared in the US District Court in Delaware over Rambus' allegations that memory manufactured by Micron infringed on memory design patents held by Rambus.

Both sides made presentations in front of Judge Roderick McKelvie, but there were no significant decisions made, Micron spokesman Sean Mahoney said. The judge will call on both parties to discuss discovery, or examination of evidence, and possibly set a date for trial, Mahoney said. Although Micron has asked for a jury trial, it is unclear at this point whether that will be granted, he added.

Rambus has seen its share of ups and downs since Toshiba became the first company to sign a licence agreement for use of Rambus technology, after it was faced with a legal challenge last year.

Since then, six other chip manufacturers, including Hitachi, NEC and Samsung Electronics, have agreed to pay royalties to the company. Three other companies, Micron, Infineon Technologies and Hynix Semiconductor have refused to acknowledge the company's patents and are fighting in court to avoid paying royalties.

The first to get a court date in the US was Infineon, which appeared with Rambus in April. That case eventually saw US District Judge Robert Payne dismiss all 57 counts of copyright infringement brought by Rambus relating to its design patents in manufacturing synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM) and double data-rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM) chips.

Rambus was dealt another blow in the case, a $3.5m (£2.4) fine in the form of punitive damages for fraud, which Judge Payne later reduced to $350,000. The judge ruled that Rambus improperly obtained patents on chips that were being developed by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) while the company was participating in the group. In its defence, Rambus claimed that the JEDEC's guidelines on participation are confusing and that other members flout the rules.

The court later set aside a jury verdict from the trial clearing the memory chip designer of allegations that it set standards relating to a technology used to accelerate memory chips.

However, there are still a dozen patents involved in other Rambus cases in the US and Europe, Rambus said in a statement. The company plans to appeal the Virginia ruling and also has filed a similar lawsuit against Infineon in Germany.

Rambus also holds newly issued patents covering SDRAM and DDR SDRAM that have not yet been entered into any litigation and are not affected by the court's decision, the company said in May after Judge Payne threw out Infineon's claims.

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